Right jobs, right people, social networks!

Thursday, 10 May 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Ranjan De Silva and Thanzyl M. Thajudeen


Employees dream of the right job for them; employers dream of the right people to join them, the search has gone on forever, have we got the answer with networking?

Do we really know what’s cooking on the internet in just one day? It’s quite startling and it is prudent for both employers to be aware of the social media revolution and its impact on us. It is increasingly becoming socialised with innovative social media networks sprouting up over the whole internet, taking it to a whole new level of human-connectivity.

Potential employers have a great opportunity to learn about potential employees by sneaking over the social profiles of a potential candidate as a ‘screen-test’ and ‘background-check’ technique? Potential employees have a great opportunity of getting exposed to more of the right kind of employer by getting profiles up in the right networks, with the right profile at the right time.

The scale is mind-boggling

We are living in an era where two million blog posts are written that can fill the TIME magazine for the next 770 m years; 294 b emails sent; 172 m visits to Facebook, 40 m visits to Twitter, 22 m visits to LinkedIn, 20 m visits to Google+ and 17 m visits to Pinterest; 4.7 b minutes spent on Facebook along with 532 m status updates and 250 m photo uploaded; 22 m hours of television shows and movies being watched on Netflix; 864,000hrs of video bring uploaded to YouTube and 35 m+ apps being downloaded. The information being generated over the internet that can fill 168 m DVDs. All this in just one day!

The hunger for human connectivity is evident by this phenomenon. We were having lesser and lesser time to connect with people as life was getting busier and busier from the ’80s into the ’90s. We were in a rat race and did not realise the pent up frustration of not being able to be connected to each other like in the good old days.

Therefore it is no wonder that people adapted to the digital connectivity options when provided, like fish into water. The business opportunity has been tremendous with more iPhones being sold than people being born at any given time. 66percent of the online adult population are connected to one or more social media platforms. Having coffee and breakfast is not the first thing 50percent of the social media users do in the morning – they check-in to their favourite networks.

The opportunity is unlimited!

You cannot simply ignore or avoid the social networking opportunity – it is a critical skill-set that HR heads and managers should possess. It enables doing background checks on potential candidates and also serves as a valuable tool for sourcing and recruiting prospective candidates whilst enhancing the organisation’s employment brand to attract top talent in the market.

A research done just two months ago revealed that Facebook, the social network had 850 m people in its network and 31 per cent checks in more than once daily; Twitter, the micro-blogging network had 500mn people in its network with 36 per cent tweeting at least once a day; LinkedIn, the professional network had 135 m people in its network with about 50% of them having a bachelor’s degree or higher; Google+, Google’s social network had 90mn+ users with its social button been used more than five billion times each day. Imagine if China and India, where access is blocked to some of these networks, was part of this, the numbers would be three to four times this

Unlike many industries the business does not reside with the pioneers. The new kids on the block are doing well too and sometimes they are growing faster than the pioneers. Pinterest, the new kid on the block already has 10.4 m users whose average household income is between $ 25K to $ 75K. They have 80% women, 60% have attended college, 25% have a bachelor’s degree or higher and they retain and engaging users two-three times better than Twitter.

Social media opportunism for background check

Employers need to access available information through social networks about potential employee to ensure the safety of their reputation and to ensure that the prospect has the capacity and capability for the job and the right workplace culture. Similarly, employees too have to maintain a positive social media profile that enhances their image in the eyes of prospective employers.

A recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder revealed as many as 37% of employers check out prospective employees on social networks before they make their final decision. They’re fundamentally looking out for one of five things; 65% wants to see if the candidate presents a professional manner, 51% wants to see whether the candidate fits the company’s culture, 51% wants to look more into the candidate’s educational qualifications; 35% wants to check whether the candidate is well-rounded, and 12% wants to check for reasons not to hire the candidate. These figures were only for the 37% response from the whole sample. It could have increased easily as 15% said that sneaking out on their social media profiles are prohibited by their organisations and a further 11% stated that ‘social media screening’ is presently not in place.

Employers should remember that employers will only write the positive details in their social profiles. They will do everything possible to make them look good. You rarely find CVs that highlights, mistakes made, learnings taken, improvement areas and action taken to improve them. More and more people seek help to write great CV’s and social profiles and more and more people are out there providing such service. As such it is better to use social profiles to filter the initial set of applicants rather than as a final background check. The main hiring decision should be based on face to face interactions.

Despite employers currently fearing any potential privacy, discrimination or negligent charges when they conduct background checks on prospects, this will eventually be fade off as social media becomes more entrenched in the fabric of life, when job seekers know that their social profiles will be checked, when job seekers write social profile having potential employers in mind.

How employers get the best of this phenomenon

Employers who use this great phenomenon should take special care during background checks to look at public profiles of potential employees on social networking sites rather than private profiles. They never ask for passwords to their private accounts as this is beyond basic ethics of many let alone it being against the law. Even if the prospective employee provides them the password, they reject it.

For example Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, stated: “As a user, you shouldn’t be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job. That’s why we’ve made it a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.”

They create and have in place a social media code of conduct or policy which will cover a comprehensive area including co-worker privacy, company confidentiality, intellectual property, and so on. It should also critically highlight how managers and staffs in HR can leverage and make sound decisions about employment based on the information available on the candidates’ social media profiles.

They also ensure that all employees across departments are made aware of and are given training on the organisation’s social media policy. Those involved in hiring are given special training on the use of social media for effective recruiting. They are made aware of the importance of using interviews and other face to face interactions to find out the skill fit for the job, real character, attitudes, beliefs, hopes, fears and aspiration of candidates in addition to checking the accuracy of CV’s and social profiles. One great question they ask is; what is the biggest mistake you have made and what have you learnt from it. Those who say; I have never made a mistake are instant write-offs and those who are humble enough to open up and share their learnings display great authenticity and learning qualities.

Why employees fear and how they can respond

As the recruiting and screening process gets increasingly influenced by checking out social media profiles, it will make prospective candidates fear the lower possibility of getting the job due to increased competition and due to the previously discussed survey result where one third of the hiring managers stated that sneaking at their social media profiles led to most employees not getting the job. The reasons being; sharing proactive or inappropriate photographs (49%), sharing about alcoholic drinking or drug-usage (45%), ineffective and poor communications skills (35%), backbiting a previous employer (33%), discriminating any race, gender or religion (38%), and finally, faking educational qualifications (22%).

However, on the bright side, 29% of them stated that they found something that led to hiring the candidate. 58% of employers stated that the social media profiles gave a good feeling about the candidate’s personality, followed by 55% stating it presented a professional image, 54% found information that backed up candidate’s professional qualifications, 51% stating it displayed a well-rounded candidate, 49% found great communication skills, 44% found it displaying the candidate’s creativity, and 34% concluding that it made a difference with other people’s recommendation on their profile.

65% of hiring managers looked in Facebook, 63% looked in LinkedIn and 16% looked in Twitter. This gives an indication to employers where to look and job seekers where to be. Following social media ethics, being selective about the network you build and being careful about what you share becomes vitally important to potential employees.

This is a wonderful opportunity and call for action by job seekers. They need to take these learnings and change their behaviours such as backbiting, give up habits such as alcohol and drugs, improve skills such as communications and learn how to build the personal brand with the right photographs and profiles.

The greater good of this phenomenon is the creation of better human beings for this planet as this pressure will send a wave of realisation, a call for action and decisive steps in education systems around the world.

(After a stint as a director of the food and retail businesses of JKH, Ranjan De Silva has been a Partner of Sensei International since 1998. He is now the CEO of Rahimafrooz Superstores Bangladesh on a secondment from SENSEI. He has provided consultancy to companies in over 20 countries. He is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of CIM and his MBA is from the PIM. Tweet him on @ranjan_desilva or email ranjan@ranjandesilva.com.)

(Thanzyl Thajudeen is a marketer and visionary strategist, also acclaimed world’s youngest member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK. He is the CE of Mark & Comm LLC, and also a contributing columnist to many newspapers. Tweet him on @thanzyl or email thanzyl@markandcomm.com.)