My phone buzzed, and a notification showing a new Facebook friend request popped up on the screen. Assuming it was just another person I had met while studying abroad, I was surprised to find out that I was correct but wrong about the type of person who would be sending a friend request. Lo and behold, my boss from my internship had sent me a friend request. Confused and somewhat nervous, I just left the notification untouched before my boss THEN privately messaged me asking a question regarding a task. What an odd way to reach out to one of your employees, I though.
Upon going into work the next week, on the topic of Facebook, my boss made a comment that I ignored her friend request that she first sent so she could add me to the company Facebook group. I nervously chuckled and apologized, before blunty telling her I didn’t want her to see what was on my Facebook. She reassured me that she didn’t care what was on my Facebook, and didn’t understand why I would be nervous about that in the first place. My boss went onto explain how in the Czech Republic- or at least within her experience- interactions via social media between supervisors and their employees isn’t strange or uncomfortable. I began to wonder how the culture in America raised me to fear my social media as possible weapon to my success as a career individual.
According to a 2017 study conducted by CareerBuilder, 70 percent of employers used social media to screen candidates before hiring, representing a significant 10% increase from 2016 and a staggering 59% increase from 2006. Even more concerning, 57% of employers said they are less likely to even interview a candidate if they can’t find that person online and 54% of employers said they didn’t hire a candidate after discovering their social media profiles. America and other parts of the world with large social media usage have resorted to using social media profiles to heavily influence their opinion of a candidate. What does it say when retweet or Facebook photo tag hold more weight than a resume highlighting past experiences and qualifications? Especially in our current society with the amount of people seeking full-time employment reaching new highs, and with competition and rejection consuming each individual’s mind during an application process, our social media profiles have possibly become our biggest obstacle.
What do employers even use our social media accounts for? For a variety of reasons, depending on the platform. For Facebook, employers will pay attention to the ‘About Me’ section to see how you describe yourself and look for any discrepancies in your cover letter and resume. Additionally, employers look for what photos you are tagged in or post, and note those that promote a risque behavior, including bad language, alcohol consumption, and drug usage. For Twitter, employers examine the type of people you are following and look for mutual connections, noting if you have mutual connections in the job industry in discussion. They additionally examine the types of information that you are retweeting. With Instagram, employers use a combination of the photos and your followers to see the type of people you interact with and if the way you portray yourself will blend in well with the company culture.
In my opinion, I believe the days of using social media to vet employees should end. Sure, social media profiles are a somewhat accurate portrayal of the person and their character, but can also be a calculated effort to paint a different picture of themselves. More importantly, social media profiles are often used for different reasons and employers bypass the possibility that individuals take efforts to keep their profiles private and difficult to find so they can use it for the reason they’d like. As many people in America, using Facebook for professional means is unorthodox and discouraged- LinkedIn exists for a reason. This is why I found it so bizarre to interact with my boss- not just my coworker- via Facebook. The fact that employers can use your own social media, a profile you have created to reflect yourself and fulfill your wants whatever they be, against you. They exploit the public profile of your private life to come to a decision of your status as an employed individual, acting as the Big Brother that controls the outcome of your efforts. This begs me to wonder whether sharing online connections with friends, family, and even strangers is worth risking losing a new offline connection in the workplace.
Image from Flickr, taken by Colin MacLean.