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Is social media harming your job-hunting chances?

You know that employers check references, but did you know that they’re also increasingly turning to social media to check your suitability for the job?

An infographic by behiring in 2011 showed that 68% of recruiters surveyed will find you on Facebook, and that 89% planned to use social media networks for recruitment. Fast forward to the end of 2013 when the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development issued a guide for employers on vetting candidates through social media, such is its prevalence.

So, why does this mean for you as a candidate? Follow these tips to make sure that you’re not a victim of SMSS – social media self-sabotage.

1. Your profile photo represents you – after all, it’s what people see every time you post. This should be blindingly obvious but if you’re job hunting, make sure that your Facebook profile picture and cover photo is something that you wouldn’t mind a prospective employer seeing and which doesn’t compromise your professional image. the same goes for your Twitter and Linked In profile pictures, and photos uploaded to Instagram.

2. A survey of 2,300 hiring managers in 2012 found that one-third of the employers who used social networking sites for screening had found information which had caused them not to hire a candidate (CareerBuilder.com, 2012). Reasons for screening out candidates related not just to inappropriate photos, but also to posts, tweets or blogs associated with alcohol or illegal drug use, and candidates revealing information that showed qualifications they had included in their CV were untrue. With Facebook, the easiest way to ensure your former indiscretions don’t trip you up is to check your privacy settings and ensure your posts can only be seen by friends rather than being public. As well as ensuring that only friends can see your future posts, you can also limit who can see past posts in ‘Privacy settings’. You can also review all previous posts and check what you’ve been tagged in through the Activity Log, and then delete or untag these. Be aware though that there have been previous issues with deletions from Facebook reappearing again so the lesson may be to think twice about what you post in the future. It goes without saying that it’s unwise to lie about your qualifications in your CV, whether your social media presence will catch you out or not.

3. The same survey also found that displaying poor communication skills could also be cause for screening out candidates before they even get to the interview stage. Yes, Twitter only allows 140 characters, but shortening everything to text-speak and acronyms (e.g. AFAIK instead of ‘I think’) may harm your job chances.

4. It’s been well-documented that posting disparaging comments about your employer can result in dismissal, as in the case of the Apple employee a couple of years ago. However, you may not realise that this can also affect the way prospective employers view you. After all, if you commented publicly on your former employer, the chances are you may do the same again.
5. Finally, whilst you may be able to undo or hide any former social media activity that you’d now rather forget, the best approach going forward may be to think twice before you post, especially if you’re actively job-hunting.

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