The Facebook offices in Menlo Park, Calif., 2012.
Within the workforce today, the battle for hire is on. And for everyone vying for a job, presentation of self — real and virtual, professional and personal — can be an important factor.
In a world where the private has gone public via online social media platforms, the divide between professional and personal lives blurs; an employer can weigh in job candidates’ paper resumes for the skills needed and their online presence for the personality expected.
“A huge part of hiring someone is not necessarily just for their skills and experience, but also for how they interact with people,” said Zoe Edwards, a program coordinator for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Over 37% of recruiters use Facebook to scan job applicants, as reported in a 2012 CareerBuilder survey. While several states have passed legislation banning employers from logging into a potential employee’s Facebook, no laws bar employers from merely scanning a candidate’s online profile.
“We are an open page to society,” said Marilyn Chandler, the executive director of the Greensboro Jewish Federation. It’s through Facebook, she added, that an employer gains greater insight “into a person’s persona that they wouldn’t normally be able to otherwise secure.”
The answer, therefore, is not to avoid social media. With Facebook serving as a recruiter’s search engine, potential employees must recognize a public display of the best “private” self only serves as a one-up in the game of landing a job.
“It’s a huge cost to your career if you’re not online and actively managing your reputation,” Gen-Y workplace and consumer expert Dan Schawbel said. “In order to get jobs and opportunities now, you have to be found.”
Sites such as Reppler help individuals manage their online image by compiling a weekly analysis summarizing activity that could affect online presence. Suggestive photos, signs of drug or alcohol abuse and discriminatory comments throw red flags in an employer’s hiring decision.
“You have to prove your worth every single second and in every single setting,” Schawbel said. “There is no real work-life balance. Everything is intertwined.”
On average, 47% of Gen-Y checks, updates and cleans their online presence, he added.
But the creation of Facebook evolved out of social means — not professional — leaving some hesitant regarding an employer’s right to reel in the personal as a manner of weighing a candidate as a professional.
“I’m not fully comfortable with employers scanning my Facebook, but I’m not sure if it’s an invasion of privacy,” Arianna Barcham, 22 of Highland Park, N.J., said. “I recognize it’s on the Internet and so it is accessible for other people.”
Barcham believes employers should judge a candidate on who they are now, rather than based on past behavior an employer could come across in their review.
“I would hope that [employers] recognize that people mature,” she said.
The question remains: Does an employer scanning a candidate’s Facebook count as an encroachment of privacy? Or has the divide between personal and professional shifted, leaving everything online fair game for the employer browsing through?
“It is an invasion of privacy,” Schawbel said. “But you’ve got to look at it from both perspectives. From a corporate perspective, it costs a lot of money to hire someone.”
And in today’s war for work, “employers need to match the person to the position.”
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