Recruiters use social networking in a predictable way

Recruiters are using social networking sites in a rather predictable way. According to a survey by Career Builder, just over a quarter of companies are using or plan to use social networking sites to make hiring decisions.

Apparently, potential employers say they wouldn’t give a job to someone who doesn’t have a “professional” screen name (whatever that means). They also wouldn’t give a job to people who had poor communication skills or who posted “unsuitable” photographs.

This is an entirely predictable way in which social networking or blogs would be used by recruiters to screen out potential candidates for jobs. If you run your own business, it’s also a way for possible customers to give you the once-over. But there is a problem.

As long ago as 1976, sociologist Ronald Dore published what has become a classic text, called The Diploma Disease. This book shows how there is an ever increasing spiral of the need for higher qualifications. What happens is that people gain lower status jobs with higher qualifications because the supply of jobs is constantly falling. That means the educational bar keeps getting higher and higher. Jobs that you only needed an O Level in Maths and English to get 20 years ago, now need a degree. Many of those that needed a degree now need a Masters, at minimum.

So what does this mean in terms of social networking online? With recruiters increasingly going to social networking sites to get an idea of who to give jobs to there will become a “level” of social networking which will become acceptable to employers. Then, when everyone has reached this level, the bar will be raised again, until everyone (in the eyes of recruiters) is achieving “perfection” in social networking.

The answer? Forget the recruiters. As hard as they try to convince us that there is “science” to what they do, ask anyone who has been in the recruitment game for a long time and they’ll tell you that no matter what the qualifications – and presumably no matter what the social networking style as well – it’s always down to “gut instinct”. Indeed, studies suggest that recruiters make up their mind as to whether or not to employ someone within the first 30 seconds of an interview.

They will also probably make up their mind about you in the first 30 seconds of reading your blog or your social networking profile. That means if you behave online as you do in the real world – in other words be yourself – you will be OK.

One other thing – should we believe Career Builder’s survey itself? Go to their web site and it tells you it is “one of the top 30 trafficked websites in the world” – whatever that means. Check them on Alexa and you’ll find their traffic rating puts them below 33,000th in the world. So, if I were recruiting them I’d already have my doubts as to the veracity of their claim. I didn’t need to investigate their social networking style – I made up my mind in seconds, just like recruiters or potential customers will.

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