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Social media can come back to bite you


Patrick Hutchens

There are benefits in having a social media profile but your increasing online presence can result in those outside of your friendship group knowing more about you than you would like to share.

In the past, employers relied on references to assess whether a person was suitable for a job. Today, a simple Google search can be used to find out a lot more about you than the carefully crafted black and white on your resumé.

No-one expects you to not have a Facebook or Twitter profile—in fact, having one can give potential employers an insight into your interests and hobbies outside of your studies—but take care that your excellent academic record and professional interview manner are not quickly counteracted by the impression you give online.

The social media monitoring service Reppler surveyed over 300 employers and found that more than 90 per cent had visited a potential employee’s social networking profile and 69 per cent had rejected a candidate based on what they had found. On a more positive note, 68 per cent had hired a person after seeing their social media profiles.

John Cross, director at Health Recruitment Specialists, says researching a candidate online has become routine practice at his agency. ‘Online has become the primary tool in our recruitment service for both search and selection,’ he said.

Cross and his colleagues rely heavily on LinkedIn. For them the main issue is that the person has not confused their personal and professional use of social media.

‘Facebook and LinkedIn allow for that separation and although those sites probably want to be all things to all people, from our point of view it is better if prospective candidates use LinkedIn as a way of presenting themselves professionally,’ he said.

‘The search function on LinkedIn is useful for us, so it helps candidates if they have accurate details of past and current job titles and employers on their profiles.’

He said that posting resumés on more generalist sites tends to be problematic due to the volume and the difficulty of keeping all the information current.

Your online presence should strengthen your professional profile, not jeopardise it. Even when your Facebook profile is on private, some things will still show up on the public view. Make sure that you delete any ‘likes’, comments or tags that don’t paint a professional picture of you.

Not even optometrists can escape the ‘six degrees of separation’ rule. You never know which of your online acquaintances may know your potential employer. Even when your profiles are on private, you need to be careful with the material you are putting up online.

The law

Once you have settled into your new job, your employer may have a right to terminate your contract based on material you put on social media even if it is outside of work hours. As the laws surrounding social media and employment are still a grey area, it is important to be cautious.

Read about cases of social media misconduct being used against employees, in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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