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Hiring and Firing: Social Media’s Impact on Modern Employment

by Jill Rogers

Social media unquestionably holds a dominant place in our daily lives – and that presence extends to our careers. Whether we’re employers or job seekers, our activity on social media has real consequences for our professional lives. Below, we detail the benefits of social media in modern recruiting, as well as the extent to which social media could hurt you—as an employee or employer.

Social Media and Recruitment 

Today, most employers recognize that the web is the place to go to hire your next great minds—but increasingly, most are bypassing the electronic job boards and heading straight to social media. With hundreds of millions of cumulative users, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram are optimal avenues for spreading the word about your latest career offerings.

As you approach the topic of recruitment, plan carefully. Advertise too broadly and you’ll receive a massive influx of applicants; advertise too little, and you won’t attract a qualified candidate. Consider viewing social media-style recruiting as you would your personal social media profiles: Use LinkedIn, the most professional of the social media platforms, with a commensurate level of decorum. Facebook is more casual, with room for links to postings across relevant forums—think professional networks, alumnae associations, and neighborhood panels. Twitter works well for quick links to new postings – embrace the hashtag here and with Instagram, since the right hashtags will target your search to just the right audience.

As an Employer

Social media works well in attracting candidates, but it can be a slippery slope if used to screen them during the hiring process. Of course, should users wish to leave their social media accounts “open” to the public, you’re permitted to view. But consider taking social media accounts with a grain of salt, since information can be concealed, misconstrued, or completely fabricated.

Still, there exists the real possibility of encountering incriminating photographs or troubling comments, so it might be beneficial to include perfunctory social media “checks” in standard background checks. It’s sensible to assign social media background checks to those not responsible for final hiring decisions.

Ultimately, recognize that harnessing social media in making hiring decisions can come at a cost. Seek legal counsel if you’re unsure about current or future practices, and you’ll be able to take that knowledge with you for all new hires.

As a Potential Employee

Most job-seekers take care to safeguard their social media account against unwanted viewers—including potential employers. It’s typically fairly easy to “lock” your account to the public, so only users you approve may view the contents of your profile and feed. If this is your practice, it pays to update privacy settings regularly.

Of course, social media can work the other way, so don’t be afraid to harness it to find your dream job—once you’ve ensured that your social media profiles are squeaky clean. Recent CareerBuilder studies demonstrate that around forty percent of employers use social media as a hiring aid, and decision-makers reach for social media, first and foremost, to ensure that would-be employees uphold themselves professionally. Roughly half are looking to see whether you’d make a good fit in the company culture, while forty-five percent were more curious about qualifications.

If you elect to keep your social media profiles open to public viewership, we suggest taking all precautions to assure would-be employers that you’re professional, intelligent, and capable of doing the job—whatever that means for your unique field. Display a passion for your industry; enhance your online identity with content focused on your work—and, ideally, your passion. Demonstrate your knowledge – and your desire to learn – and you’ll leave your profile open to admiring eyes.

As a Current Employee

TDifferent jobs have different rules about social media use—and luckily, most American workplaces are fairly lax. We often befriend our co-workers—and even our bosses—on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and take pleasure in getting to know them on a more personal level. Yet it pays to do your research before you friend-request your new officemate. Check in with HR or dust off your employee manual for any language about social media use that could compromise your position—now or down the line.

It’s also worth upholding a boundary between work and play, so to speak. Don’t feel badly about not accepting a “friend request,” and don’t send one if it makes you feel the least bit uneasy. You never know what an offhand comment or casual photo might do to sour a working relationship.

The Bottom Line

Our advice? Approach the double-edged sword of social media head on. If you go public, play it professional, selecting reasonable photos (nix the skimpy clothes; ditch the one with the drink in hand) for your featured shots. If you’d rather no one view you online at all, be diligent about taking regular precautions to protect your sensitive content. But if you choose to embrace social media, start today! Bolstering your presence with relevant, targeted content will get you noticed—but don’t take our word for it.

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