A young friend who just scored her first internship at a NYC recruiting firm recently told me that she’s uncomfortable with her new job description. Instead of filing and sitting in on interviews, she’s spending her summer days in a high-walled cubicle poring over the social feeds of countless candidates applying “mostly,” she says, “for low- to mid-level financial and legal positions.” Her new bosses seem impressed with her comfort with the technology and are pleased with her vetting of new hires, but she describes the task as akin to “stalking crushes on Facebook,” something she’s “gotten embarrassingly good at in college.”
Either way, at 21, she’s become the gate-keeper to employment for thousands of New Yorkers and I was surprised to hear about the barriers to entry. Wedding pictures? Great. Baby photos? Even better. Photos with friends at parties, beaches and concerts? An absolute must.
“There’s a sense that a profile with no character has probably been scraped of some racy stuff or else the person has no social skills and won’t fit in.” Either way, she says, that candidate has been moved to the bottom of the pile.
According to the 2012 annual technology market survey from Eurocom Worldwide, “One in five tech executives say that a candidate’s social media profile has caused them not to hire that person.” Another recent survey shows that 37% of firms across industries browse social media profiles to evaluate each candidate’s character and personality .
But with all of the common wisdom floating around the web (and this site) on how careful job seekers must be about curating (read: editing) their social presence online, it seems to be that our advice might have crossed over from helpful to problematic. In a popular post on Forbes from contributor Lisa Quast in April, she says it’s important to leave out photos from Saturday night’s party in order to communicate a more professional demeanor. With so much time focusing on building a strong professional character on our Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles we might possibly be leaving out a very critical element: our personalities.
By 2012 experts on using personal branding for professional purposes have really given up the notion of any real distinction between personal and professional presences, which was, until recently, the oft-repeated wisdom for job seekers. But keeping track of two Twitter feeds can be exhausting, and maintaining two Facebook profiles actually violates their code of conduct and could leave you banned from the network.
Instead, at least according to careers expert Joshua Waldman, something of a guru in using social media in the job hunt who gave a talk at this week’s NACE conference on the subject, says that everyone—employed, unemployed and the hopefully-soon-to-be-employed—should adopt a tone of what he calls “Public Private” online. “Think about a TV or radio show host,” he says. “They’re talking about personal details of their lives in a very public way. These details are important because they make themselves seem accessible to listeners but they’re definitely not deep secrets or potentially embarrassing.”
Job-seekers, Waldman says, should keep the public private in mind when posting to social networks or when selecting privacy settings. Aim to post something publicly private to the social graph at least once a week and you won’t wind up on the bottom of an intern’s pile, or worse, become the subject of a more thorough investigation. “Step into the mindset of a celebrity or a public figure,” he says. “There is information about you available online to anyone willing to work hard enough to find it.” It’s better, he says, to tame the lion by feeding it.