Can potential employers check out what I’m doing on social media?

This week is National Careers Week – a celebration of career guidance and opportunities in the UK. There are lots of free resources available designed to help those at school, college or university and those who are currently unemployed or not in the job they want, to become more employable.

Inevitably, much of the advice available is about interview technique and CV writing. There are also opportunities for students to meet real employers and explore different careers paths that are aligned with their skills. However, in such a highly competitive jobs market, those looking for work need to not only need to give employers lots of reasons to choose them for a particular role – they also need to avoid any potential reasons for employers not to hire them at all costs. With such a big pool of candidates for every role, employers are looking for any possible reason to move one of the many applications that meets all the criteria of the job specification to the ‘no’ pile.

Social media presents huge opportunities when it comes to employability. It can be used to help you research job opportunities that are not advertised in traditional ways and make yourself visible to potential employers, showing them that you are a proactive networker who is passionate and able to confidentially comment on your areas of expertise. However, it also poses risks in terms of the kind of content which you may be sharing that employers don’t want to see!

When it comes to pre-employment screening of social media, there are legal measures in place which stop employers from discriminating against job applicants on the grounds of age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation.  It would be unlawful for an employer discriminate against a job applicant and refuse to interview them on these grounds because of information they had found by searching social media. However, this does not stop employers from conducting general ‘due diligence’ on a prospective employee by looking at their social media footprint.  Despite having the skills and experience which they are looking for, any embarrassing or inappropriate social media content may just give an employer a valid reason not to hire you.

‘Closed’ social media platforms like Facebook have built in privacy settings which can be amended to ensure that personal pictures and comments don’t come up in a Google search but others like Twitter are completely public and what you tweet is in the public domain for all to see.

Presenting yourself to an employer is now about so much more than a perfectly-polished CV. It is about managing your whole online footprint and developing a personal brand for yourself which is aligned with what they are looking for. When was the last time you Googled yourself? How do you think the search results would come across to a potential employer? You don’t have to hide the fact that you have a social life – on the contrary, employers often want to see that you are a well-rounded and well connected person – but you should think twice about what you are publishing online which you may not want potential employers to see.

Helen-Standing-Director-Engage-Comms-H&SHelen Standing
Director of Engage Comms Ltd
Co-author of ‘Power Your Personal Brand for 2013

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