Job search – If I can’t find you, I can’t hire you

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 - Article, career management, job search, online cv, social networking, tutorial

Social Networking

facebook website screenshot
Creative Commons License photo credit: Spencer E Holtaway

The modern world and the internet brings many advantages to many people, and changes in the way in which opportunity is provided. Not least of these changed sectors is that of recruitment, where the rise of job boards such as Monster and WorkThing has brought about the opportunity for individuals to become aware of more job vacancies over a greater geography, and do better research on employers.

However, have you ever thought about switching the question, and asking what advantages the internet brings to the employer, particularly in the area of Social Networking? In fact, rather than worrying about big-brother syndrome and what information is on the internet about you, could it be argued that unless I the employer can find you, I couldn’t hire you?

Jobs Boards advertise many jobs for a vast range of employers, from both local start-ups to global corporates. Although pre-credit crunch jobs board activity was in slow decline, the growth area presently over the early generalist brands like StepStone (who have retreated to become a back end process supplier), is now in focused job boards. These can either be targeted on a geographic or sector basis, or both. For instance, specialist financial sector job boards exist in London and New York, while specialist IT sector boards exist in Silicon Valley, Northern Virginia and even the UK’s Thames Valley. However, the greatest growth is in localised geographic job boards, which fulfil two driving needs: local SME employers realising the reduced costs of employment of using job boards over recruiters; the news print industry wanting to enter the online world, to replace reduced revenue flow from print media sales.

Twitter website screenshot
Creative Commons License photo credit: Spencer E Holtaway

Increased job board proliferation means that candidates have a far greater choice of opportunity – but the process under lying these job boards is effectively the same process used 50 years ago to apply for a job: the CV. Accepted, that now the candidate places their CV online at the job board – encouraged to do so by the job board owners making this “service” free – and they have control over whether their CV is in the public domain of the job board, or hidden and only shown to employers whose jobs they apply for. Part of the perceived problem in job board usage drop-off pre-credit crunch was that many recruiters seeking to gain early access to candidates with rare skills placed false or non-briefed requirements on the job boards to attract them. This type of activity – to the detriment of the recruitment industry – has always gone on. But when recruiters and employers are the only participants in the job board business model who pay to participate, one can understand why they may well seek to use tactics which create additional value beyond those marketed by the job board owners.

One thing that the job board model has created is a surge in known candidate data for any job search – from about 25% to at least 35%/40% in less than 15 years. This in theory means that there are still two thirds of potential candidates who are invisible to employers and recruiters, but Social Media has brought about a huge change in this visibility.

The main driven fear of job seekers when assessing their use of Social Media is “will I be excluded from a job selection process, because of what my Social Media profile says about me?” This mix of data about them found on the internet is often now referred to as their Google CV. For instance, telling your mates and friends on Facebook about the latest intimate details of last weekends trawl of local bars, your current relationship, your hobbies – or your love of Fetish wear – are all raised concerns of job applicants when deciding what to do about their Social Media profiles. A couple of thoughts……

  1. If its out there and could have been found, then it’s out there and stored in Google’s cache. If you think its socially cool and highly accepted to walk down your local high street with a white placard board with all your intimate details written on it, then that’s what you are doing when you place all your intimate thoughts and details online. Did you know that by just placing three pieces of information online, most criminals could replicate your ID sufficiently to get a credit card or bank account in your name? May be next time before your put everything into the public domain to attract a few more new interesting mates online for a better weekend, you might want to just keep public the things you would tell someone you meet in a bar/at a meeting during a 10minute conversation. Assume the rest is for best friends/for the bedroom only material, and keep it private
  2. If that’s you, then that’s you – would you really want to work for an employer, or even survive in an environment which didn’t accepted you were a socially connected individual, and had a life outside the 9-5? The best employers reflect internally their external customer audience that they market/sell to, so hire people who reflect that targeted audience. Probably the most extreme example of this in their hiring process is Oakley sunglasses, who want all applicants for both internal hire and regional franchisee’s to explain their social and leisure activity first before considering them for an interview. Oakley want a series of wholly credible with their customers ambassadors, who actually are die hard sports people first over corporate people a distant second. If applicants can not explain how they enjoy relaxing doing their sport or hobby first, then Oakley won’t consider them for an interview.

If an employer can’t accept that a socially single 20-something does occasionally go out and have a few too many beers and a dance around a mirrored ball in their local bar, then – really, would you want to work for them? Accepted that perhaps a 40-something trawling bars like a 20-something might be a caution sign to an employer, but if they were part of a social group like a rugby club or were meeting up with old friends on an annualised basis, then again – if that was unacceptable, would you really want to work for that company?

Employers always seek socially connected individuals – much as though an overtly active social life may be a caution to some employers, a lack of one to all is an equally if not greater caution sign. It is hence why many CV Templates include a CV Interests section. It is there mainly for school/university graduates who may have little work place experience; but it also serves to show/confirm to an employer that you are a “normal” individual and have a developed capability for social integration.

Which brings about the question: if I can’t find you as a candidate/human being with a life online, are you degradating your employment prospects in the modern connected world? Undoubtedly, yes.

Much as though you might not want to stick a board on your chest and advertise yourself as “available,” a non-existent social profile equally robs the modern professional of being employed. Perhaps the more socially-perceived Social Networks such of Facebook are not for you: but consider that it has the greatest average age of any Social Network community of 35; and a user community which stands at 174 million, the equivalent size of Brazil. Business focused social networks such as LinkedIn and Doostang are aimed solely and squarely at professional business people, and are useful minimum social marker posts where the modern business professional should be found.

Are there downsides to having a professional social network profile? Yes, it could and probably will attract some unwelcome attention of over-enthusiastic recruiters seeking those skill-short or rare candidate skills. But a 50 word profile doesn’t give them all your details, it just says you exist – and professional recruiters will always accept a no is a no. Fools can always be controlled by reporting them to either their own managers, or the Social Networking sites own administration network: they don’t want you to go away, so they will happily deal with persistent and unprofessional conduct.

What does your profile need to say? Not a lot more than the basics you would tell another professional in any first business meeting, after presenting them with your business card. A typical 50 word summary should include: (a) what you do, (b) major projects, and (c) your responsibilities. If you are a job seeker, then include an additional set of words which indicate that. You may not want to go that far, but a professional statement along the lines of “presently seeking employment in the areas of X, Y or Z” will in a professional manner attract more than enough employer and recruiter views.

So if you are job hunting, or just wanting to improve your career management, try some focused social networking – because if I can’t find you, I can’t hire you.

Good Luck!

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