In the confusing world of social media, professionals may find these guidelines helpful in deciding when and what is appropriate for posting personal information.
By Jill Yarberry-Laybourn
Shakespeare’s Hamlet didn’t have to consider whether or not to post, and he certainly didn’t have to worry about whether or not a past post on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook would be harmful to his future career endeavors. There was no “Do I or don’t I? Should I or shouldn’t I?” Life was simpler then.
Today, it is a bit stickier to know whether you do or don’t, and whether you should or shouldn’t. With the number of varying reports surrounding the influence of social media on the hiring process as well as its impact on current employees’ standings within a company, a professional can get pretty confused about how to go about posting. Adding to the confusion, recruiters—in some instances—will only consider candidates who have an online presence. It isn’t surprising that professionals’ heads are spinning in more circles than Regan’s on ‘The Exorcist,’ considering all the variables. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, there are some basic guidelines to follow.
Not to Post
According to a CareerBuilder study, 43 percent of employers commonly use search engines to get the skinny on prospective candidates. But what does that mean? We asked some of our Forefront sources and found that they were less inclined to snoop around social media that is more personal in nature.
Gavin Pommernelle, Executive Vice President of Human Resources (HR) at Harte Hank and Chief Executive Officer of Talent Driven Value, noted, “Personally, I am more sensitive to not doing it, whether it is Facebook or Twitter.” His rationale? “Keep personal, personal. It doesn’t say anything about how I am going to do my job, or whether I am qualified to do my job.”
Grace Clemens, Marketing Executive of U.K.-based Hi Mum! Said Dad, a mobile marketing agency, agrees, but with one caveat: “If we feel we need to take a look at someone because something is fishy,” she said, “We may look at their Facebook account.”
In the same CareerBuilder study, 51 percent of those employers using social media to research job candidates indicated that “they’ve found content that caused them to not hire the candidate.” That is a potentially alarming statistic for job seekers out in the marketplace.
Clemens says that her biggest concern would be if “candidates post something that has discriminatory views or views opposite of the company’s vision.”
Jason Jankoski, Assistant Dean of HR at the Wisconsin School of Business, agrees. “Since we are in the student services/academia,” he said, “any candidate that posted something that was truly contradictory to our mission could dissuade a hiring decision.”
The data is clear: All professionals should give some consideration as to whether or not to post, and what to post. Equally clear is that job seekers should utilize social media sites geared toward professionals.
Pommernelle looks at LinkedIn to make sure a candidate’s resume and profile correlate, though he is more interested in seeing comments and recommendations. Most importantly, he looks for, “What are you known for outside your organization?”
Clemens, too, encourages the use of LinkedIn and utilizes professional sites to get a feel for candidates. “We specifically look for professional knowledge and experience,” she said. “The best thing you can get from social media is personality. That is a huge thing in our office. We have a positive work environment.”
Likewise, some deliberation also needs to be given regarding the industry and function in which one is job searching. If it is within the marketing industry, the answer is a resounding, “Post and post often!” Marketing professionals like Clemens strongly support professionals being active with social media and building their brand. Professional knowledge and experience supersedes a plethora of followers and tweets, but Clemens advocates for people posting and blogging about what matters to them.
As food for thought, she advised, “I strongly encourage people to think about how other people are seeing it It is difficult. It is easy to offend and get negativity back. Always think about how you are saying it, and always remember there is no tone.” In other words, the reader doesn’t get to see the personality, heart and smile behind the posting.
Current Employees: Do or Don’t?
Professionals across the board agree that current employees need to be cautious when posting content that might reflect negatively on their company or imply that the content reflects the viewpoint of the company. While there doesn’t seem to be a lot of policies strictly in place, professionals agree that education regarding the benefits and pitfalls of social media usage is a must.
Supporting a direct marketing business that helps clients with their social media strategies, Pommernelle advises current employees: “Be aware of how you are reflecting the company. If you going to discuss Harte Hanks, or the corporation you work for, it isn’t going to be on social media.”
The question is less about to post or not to post; it is more about what to post and being conscientious about one’s online presence.
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, so the safest bet is to make sure the personal stays personal by securing one’s privacy settings on social media accounts that are strictly for the purpose of keeping in touch with family and friends. At the same time, keep all professional postings relevant to one’s work and one’s passion, and all will be well that ends well.
Jill Yarberry-Laybourn is a freelance writer based in Colorado.