Talent Acquisition

The Virtues and Dangers of Social Media in Recruitment

About a month ago, I wrote a blog about social media and employee rights in the workplace. When I showed it to one of my coworkers, she responded by saying, “YOU wrote a blog on social media?! I thought you were anti-social media?” For the record, I’m not anti-social media, but I admit I have been cautious about embracing it. I view social media as a double-edged sword, especially for the recruiting industry. It’s a tool, and like any tool in the hardware store, it can be used to create incredible things, but also to destroy them.

What should social media be for?

On any given day, I make it a point to check my social media accounts. In just a few minutes, I can gain insight into the most pressing current events around the world, what’s going on in the lives of my friends and colleagues, new developments and technology related to the recruiting industry, and many other topics of interest that I never would have thought I’d find. However, in order to get to this info, I must sift through thousands of memes, photos of people planking, tweets about how long the line is at Starbucks, photos of what everyone had to eat that day, endless political propaganda, and various other posts that serve little purpose other than to relieve the poster’s boredom.

Now, I’m not saying that social media should only be used for business purposes. I enjoy a good cat photo or Korean music video as much as anyone. But for some, social media has become a public forum to voice every thought that enters their heads, no matter how controversial. For others, it has replaced e-mail, and allows them to publicly share one-on-one conversations that no one else cares to read. Surprisingly, many who are guilty of this are job seekers, and even the occasional recruiter who should know better.

Social media is a way to find your next job

Social media has opened a whole new world for both job seekers and recruiters. Last year, Jobvite, a recruiting platform for the social web, conducted a Social Job Seeker Survey asking 2,100 people about their current employment status and the role of social networks in their job search. Amazingly, one in six of the employed respondents credited social media for their current job, and 52% of all job seekers reported using Facebook to look for work. Jobvite president Dan Finnigan stresses what all recruiters will tell you – in order to be a well-rounded job seeker, a candidate must maintain a professional social media presence. A professional presence empowers the candidate to connect with thousands of people that would have never been possible a decade ago. But as the Spiderman movies taught us, with great power comes great responsibility.

In a recent article by Bill Davidow featured on The Atlantic, Davidow describes how we are in the midst of a “narcissism epidemic” that is being fed by social media. In a recent study conducted at Western Illinois University, researchers measured two socially disruptive aspects of narcissistic personalities – grandiose exhibitionism and entitlement/exploitativeness. Those who had high scores on grandiose exhibitionism tended to amass more friends on Facebook. The conclusion was that social media platforms are frequently used by those with narcissistic tendencies to feed their egos. And while the majority of social media users don’t fall into this category, narcissists set many of the benchmarks for everyday users – i.e., achieving more friends or followers by posting quantity over quality.

In case you’re not Justin Bieber

The result is the illusion of being an internet celebrity…perhaps in one’s own mind. But unless you’re Justin Bieber, even your close circle of friends will eventually tire of your posts if they are too numerous, too controversial or just plain annoying. And that doesn’t even take into account those who don’t know you, but may be checking out your page. If you are a job seeker, you should be especially cognizant of this. What kind of message are you sending to prospective employers? That you find yourself thoroughly entertaining, and therefore everyone else must too? Most people don’t want to work with someone who is too verbose, too political or too opinionated. If this is the message you are unwittingly sending out on Facebook or Twitter, it could be a huge red flag to someone thinking of hiring you. And if you are a recruiter or employer, your social media behavior should serve as an example to job seekers.

In today’s job market, whether you are a job seeker or recruiter, you are at an obvious disadvantage if you’re not pro-social media. Just be sure to ask yourself whether you are leaving a positive impression on those in your social network – especially those who don’t know you. Remember to post/tweet responsibly. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.