Your Facebook posts, tweets could cost you a job

Recruitment agencies caution job candidates against complaining about their previous company, or posting explicit photos or pictures of alcohol consumption on social media. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Recruitment agencies caution job candidates against complaining about their previous company, or posting explicit photos or pictures of alcohol consumption on social media. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — Recruiter Muslim Nazari thought the 28-year-old applying for the sales manager position seemed too good to be true with his impressive resume and impeccable interview scores.

Just to be certain, Muslim scanned his Facebook profile and found incriminating pictures of the once-promising job candidate using recreational drugs at parties.

The potential hire also used the same social media space to complain about his manager.

“He didn’t get the job,” Muslim told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.

“Those were the two biggest red flags. We don’t hire people who are involved with illegal activities. It will affect the company’s image.

“We also question the values of people who speak ill of their previous company on social media,” he added. 

Muslim, who is now with another IT company which he declined to name, said his current job requires him to screen all job applicants through social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, a social networking site designed specially for professionals.

Although Malaysians generally keep their Facebook settings private, Muslim says he can easily access job candidates’ private Facebook profiles as they are usually connected to someone within his organisation that has about 1,500 employees.

“It’s six degrees of separation,” he said, referring to the theory that says everyone in the world is connected to one another through no more than five or six intermediaries.

Recruitment agencies said recently that Malaysian employers and those around the world are increasingly using Facebook, LinkedIn and microblogging site Twitter to screen job applicants, in order to look at their professional and cultural fit with the organisation.

With Malaysia’s Facebook population now numbering a whopping estimate of 13.3 million users, this could pose potential risks to job hopefuls who tend to live their lives out on Facebook or other social media outlets.

As a result, a racial insult, religious threat, the incessant use of vulgarities or any evidence of inappropriate behaviour on these easily accessible social networking sites, could cost these candidates their dream job.

“Based on what some of our clients have shared with us, there have been incidents where they reconsidered a candidate based on disparaging comments made and inappropriate pictures of heavy drinking and partying uploaded on Facebook and Twitter,” Randstad Malaysia director Jasmin Kaur told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.

“For example, an organisation refused to hire a candidate due to a blog post which included racist comments.

“With personal and professional lives colliding on social media, we encourage all candidates to take greater care in managing their online profile in accordance with their career aspirations and goals,” added the recruitment agency official.

Jasmin said that a potential hire’s background and character can be better gauged through their social media profiles, instead of a formal job interview, where every individual tends to be on his or her best behaviour.

“Social media screening also allows employees to find potential red flags on a candidate such as inappropriate behaviour, negative commentary on past employers or discrepancies in their education qualifications and work history,” she said.

“Turn-offs for employers include inappropriate posts on controversial issues, personal pictures of partying, complaints about employers and co-workers, and evidence of illegal activities like drug consumption,” added Jasmin.

Even grammatical errors and spelling mistakes on a Facebook status update can make all the difference as it speaks of a job candidate’s attention to detail, she said.

Muslim, however, differs when it comes to photos of partying or consumption of alcohol on a job candidate’s Facebook profile. 

“That shouldn’t concern us. It shows that the person has a social life. A lot of employees have a party life,” he said.

Like Jasmin, he also noted that discrepancies between an individual’s resume and Facebook profile could show up in cases where the candidate was terminated from their previous company and did not list it in their CV, but left it on their Facebook profile.

According to Jasmin, a job candidate’s online profile is also particularly important in roles like digital marketing as it would reflect their skills.

As such, recruiters are now cautioning Generation Y — or those in their 20s and early 30s — to be wary of what they post on social media.

“Many have spent their teenage years constantly updating their social media networks on almost all elements of their lives, and may find it more difficult than their older counterparts to distinguish what should be kept personal in order to protect their professional reputation,” said Jasmin.

A survey conducted by online recruitment company in March showed that 17 per cent of employers screen a job candidate’s social media profiles, like Facebook and Twitter, based on a sample size of 394 employers and 379 employees in Malaysia.

“Since social media like Facebook is used by many, it is not surprising if an employer would search for a candidate’s profile on their own to get a glimpse of who you are outside the confines of a resume, cover letter or interview.

“This is usually done as part of a reference check before hiring someone,” country manager Chook Yuh Yng told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.

“Employers are looking as to whether or not a candidate presents him or herself professionally online, as a wrong hire will often prove to be costly to an organisation,” she added.

Chook said a job candidate’s values and ethics would be questioned if they often badmouth and criticise others on social media, or if they post provocative and explicit photos. English-language skills would also be evaluated through Facebook posts or tweets.

“Your soft skills, what you write, reflects your capability to communicate to management, clients and colleagues,” she said.

Chook also pointed out that the survey showed that 81 per cent of employers believe social media is an important business tool that can be used to interact with prospective customers.

“It is an extra advantage if job candidates are active or well-rounded on social media and know how to use the platform well,” she said.

Chris Mead, regional director of recruitment company Hays in Malaysia and Singapore, said social networking sites have transformed the recruitment process for both employers and job candidates in Malaysia, and across the globe.

“Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now reach over one billion users, with unprecedented levels of private information being publicly available within a click,” Mead told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.

“Employers are looking at candidates’ social media profiles in order to gain greater insights into the candidates they’re considering hiring. That’s why maintaining your online profile is a vital part of career management.

“We advise candidates to think carefully about what they share and where. If it’s something they wouldn’t want a new employer to see, then they shouldn’t post it.

“We also recommend to candidates that their online profile and offline CV match, and to adjust their security settings so only their private network can see their personal information,” he added.

Kelly Services Malaysia managing director Melissa Norman said that recruiters are increasingly using social media to hunt for job candidates, citing Jobvite’s 2013 Social Recruiting Survey.

The US survey showed that 94 per cent of employers across industries are using social media in their recruitment efforts, up from 89 per cent in 2011 and 78 per cent in 2008.

The top three social networks for recruiting this year are LinkedIn (94 per cent), Facebook (65 per cent) and Twitter (55 per cent), according to the survey that was conducted in June among 1,600 recruiting and human resources professionals in the US.

“There was once a mindset that some social platforms were for professional life, and others were for social life, but the reality is, they are beginning to blend,” Norman told The Malay Mail Online in a recent email interview.

“Work colleagues are now in our social networks; and social media is being used in business operations for good times and bad (politics, promotions, and emergencies), and to connect professionals.

“Kelly Services Malaysia is a good example with employment of professionals from across the globe, in particular the UK, US, India, Bangladesh, and others,” added the recruitment specialist.

Recruiters also agreed that recruitment done through social media provides better candidates and saves time as communication is quicker and screening is easier, according to Norman.

“An upside for candidates searching for job opportunities and connecting to future managers and colleagues this way is the familiarity they build even before starting a role,” she said.

Camily David, a recruitment manager in an oil and gas company, said that she uses Facebook and Twitter to screen candidates for senior managerial positions on a case-by-case basis.

“Sometimes, when the candidate goes MIA or doesn’t respond to our calls or emails, and we still have to constantly chase and follow up, then we will do a background check (on social media),” David told The Malay Mail Online recently, using the acronym for ‘Missing in Action’.

“Always remember that somebody out there in the corporate world is always looking at your profile, and that people with authority have the right to use your social network or social profile against you,” she added.

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