Social networking do’s and don’ts for job seekers

Social networking sites offer IT job seekers the resources to find peers with similar skills and learn more about employers.

But candidates should be aware that the online outlets also provide employees a glimpse into the personal lives of potential hires. That can be good or it can be very bad, according to Rona Borre, president and CEO of Instant Technology, an IT recruiting and staff augmentation firm in Chicago. Borre recently talked with Network World Senior Editor Denise Dubie about how new technologies can boost or torpedo job searches.

As an IT recruiter for some 15 years, what do you think has changed the most for high-tech job seekers?

With today’s unconventional recruiting methods such as social networking sites, there are so many ways now to really put yourself out there and get connected to people with the same interests as you. That has really changed the landscape of recruiting for IT talent.

How has it changed the process for recruiters? It has allowed us to better match clients with candidates in a cultural way. We can search on Facebook and Google, for instance, and get just a glimpse or even deeper insight into their character.

nterests outside of work such as music or art could lead an employer that is in a particular industry to one candidate over another. We can use social networking sites to find out more about an organization’s culture as well. If employees are in clubs or groups listed online, that gives us a perspective on the people that already work there and helps us culturally match others.

What would be considered a bad cultural match? If you look at dot-com companies that are very fast-paced and work long hours, and someone coming from a structured financial institution and is accustomed to working set hours, such as 9 am to 5 pm — that is not a good cultural fit.

How can IT job seekers use those sites to find work? A lot of candidates are going to sites and learning more about an organization and connecting with people that already work there to better understand the jobs and culture.

For their own profiles, they should make sure the profile is well-written and tasteful. They need to display the work that could differentiate them as a candidate, such as interest in music, art, clubs or athletics. That type of information could give them the added boost with an employer and really make them stand out.

Do you have any examples?

We work with a lot of online media companies. One of those clients was looking for a developer, not just a coder, someone that offered a bit more to the role, someone more interesting and original. We had a candidate that was a rapper, a music video rapper.

The client went to the candidate’s YouTube site and found the candidate’s personal information and rap video very original and creative in terms of music and other personal interests — attributes beyond his job qualifications and technical skills. It was a very positive representation for that candidate.

The client saw that his creativity would translate well to their online media company and be able to provide what they needed to produce for their clients. It was more about looking at the person as a whole as opposed to a one-dimensional piece of paper that has their credentials. It’s not really about that anymore.

What if you aren’t a rapper or you don’t have art to display? It is also very important to not only talk about your education and work experience, but also what you did at the school or university or former employer, such as social clubs or teams you were involved in. And always remember to be human and relatable.

These sites are about humans trying to connect with each other so you have to put that human element forward. Social networking is another sales tool, another way to showcase the best attributes you have.

How can putting personal information on social networking sites hurt a candidate’s job search efforts?

There are a lot of don’ts in terms of what you want to do with your profile. People are definitely more aware of what they are putting on their sites, giving some people the ability to look at some things and keeping some aspects private.

I think now people are becoming much smarter because they might have had pictures of themselves up partying in college and now they know that it can be seen and found by potential employers and that the information they post there can be applicable to their professional lives.

For instance? In terms of things not to do, don’t post a lot of personal pictures of questionable taste. My rule of thumb is if my mom couldn’t see it, I wouldn’t put it up there. You also have to be careful who you link to and who you accept in your profiles because people go beyond and look deeper into who those connections are.

If you have political or social views, you want to keep that to a minimum because you never know how a potential employer could interpret those, especially if it is a bank or a financial institution, for instance. Your personal beliefs are your own and potential employers likely wouldn’t ask that question in an interview, but if it is posted for the world to see, you have to be aware that the information could help or potentially hurt you.

How could personal beliefs hurt a person’s chances at getting a job?

One example I can share. We had a situation that we posted for a position. The résumé for this candidate included phenomenal credentials and great experience, but the recruiter manager also did a search on Facebook. The candidate’s theme was predominantly Satanic and that didn’t work for the hiring organization’s culture.

Should IT job seekers strip out all personal references on these sites? No. In many cases, it depends on where they would like to work, the type of organization they would prefer. There are many things that can be taken as positive or negative, depending on the work culture.

For instance, we hired someone that had pictures of him with his fraternity brothers and we viewed that as a very positive aspect of his personally in that he was committed long-term to an organization. But another employer could view the same picture differently. You have to be very selective and consider both sides of the fence when posting pictures or personal information. People use these sites to check you out and judge you essentially.

How can IT workers highlight their nontechnical skills on such Web sites?

Today’s market is more about the soft skills. The technology demand is there, but it’s how IT workers go into a situation and use their business acumen to handle a crisis. Employers don’t want people to sit in a room and code, in all honesty those jobs are going overseas. You have to give concrete examples of how your technical know-how helped the business.

How honest do candidates have to be in their profiles?

They should be honest, but they can present themselves in innovative ways. We had an instance in which an older gentlemen who worked in IT went on Facebook and positioned himself as more youthful by joining nightlife, connections and dance-club groups.

That profile helped him get an interview, but his technical skills and experience helped him land the job. There are many IT workers with a wealth of knowledge and experience at their disposal, but it’s important that they convey how they are keeping current with their know-how.

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