Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Secret Skill for the Job Hunt

**This post brought to you by the folks at Webucator and their 2014 Most Marketable Skills Campaign! They have some great resources, including free, self-paced Microsoft training courses.**

Three years ago my aunt, a vice president of a well-known corporation in the U.S., laughed at the idea that an applicant for any job wouldn’t be vetted according to their social media use. “We can get in there,” she said when my sister and I brought up Facebook’s privacy settings. Since that moment I’ve come to realize what most millennials already know: employers are checking all job candidates’ social media accounts, not just LinkedIn.

In their forthcoming paper, Buzzanell and Berkelaar interviewed 45 employers in a variety of fields (IT, law, media/communication, etc.) about their hiring practices, looking for what kinds of information employers were accessing and how they were using it to evaluate potential hires.

Summarized from their findings:

The vast majority of employers acknowledge the importance of cybervetting in their hiring process. Employers are tired of clean cover letters, worked-over resumes, and recommendations that all say the same thing. In order to get a feel for real personality of the candidates applying for their job postings, employers “do a quick Google search” or Facebook check any and all applicants—from entry-level to executive. Most look first and foremost at pictures, vetting for unprofessional party pictures or PDA. Fair or not, photography of “unprofessional behavior” in a candidate’s social life disqualifies him or her as the kind of person an employer doesn’t want representing her company.

After that they’ll look at textual information: what, how, and how often a person is posting. Racist or jargon-such-as-YOLO-filled language, bad grammar, misspellings or improper punctuations: all of these can disqualify a candidate immediately. They will even look for hobbies “incompatible” with the proffered job (such as “that Farmville game”).  Employers trust their initial impressions of candidates based on a quick social media scan. Similarly, candidates who spend “too much” time on Facebook or Twitter will be judged as time-wasters. On the other hand, job candidates with no social media presence are also disqualified. As Buzzanell and Berkelaar (2014) write, “Just as lacking a credit history lowers credit scores, these data suggest that lack of visible online information negatively impacts employability assessments” (p. 25).

While the implications of these practices about privacy and work/life balance are, frankly, horrifying, knowing what employers are looking for gives job applicants a crucial leg up in the job hunt. One of the top marketable skills for recent or upcoming grads is the ability to craft an online presence that is attractive to employers. Employers are looking for millennials who are professional in their social media lives, adept at social media use, and high achievers with volunteer experience and a dense social network. 

 Berkelaar, B. & Buzzanell, P. M. (2014). Online employment screening and digital career capital: Exploring employers; use of online information for personnel selection. Management Communication Quarterly.

1 comment:

  1. That is golden information, Elaine! I'm glad you shared that. It would be very helpful, especially to fresh graduates nowadays, to know what they should avoid in order to land a job effectively. Youth jargon can be adorable, but society's youth should know when it's unacceptable to use it. Anyway, thanks for sharing that! Kudos and all the best to you! :)

    Waylon Grimm @ AllForce Labour Solutions