Students soon to enter the professional world can either help or hurt their chances of finding employment by implementing social media into their job search, according to Cal Poly career counselor Amie Hammond.
Hammond said Jobvite, a recruiting platform for the social media era, found in an annual survey that 89 percent of U.S. companies plan to use social media when hiring new employees in 2011.
As a result, job seekers need to be aware of the benefits and pitfalls to using social media, both personally and professionally.
“One thing I’ve heard employers say that (would make them) discount somebody as a candidate is inconsistency of how that person portrays themselves in the interview process, and then, what they see that person is like when they look at their personal life,” Hammond said. “It’s not necessarily one specific thing, but more like that person’s professional brand.”
In order to create a successful brand, an individual needs to not only monitor what pictures and comments are posted of or about them online, but also take advantage of websites that can help them find a job. Examples of this include Facebook, Twitter and most importantly, LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is used similarly to Facebook. It tells the world a little bit about a person; however, it’s done by using a more professional platform.
When professionalism is taken out of it is when users can get into trouble. Rarely, if ever, does LinkedIn receive the national spotlight that Facebook can demand.
“I’m a huge proponent of LinkedIn,” Hammond said. “It’s completely underutilized by the student demographic, but it is such a great tool for identifying and researching companies, getting ideas for resumes and types of experience people have included on their profile.”
Hammond teaches a workshop on LinkedIn once a quarter in one of Cal Poly’s computer labs. She tells all the students she is responsible for advising in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences to take advantage of all that it offers.
Professors at Cal Poly have gone as far as to implement social media lectures into their course material because of its prevalence in today’s business.
Graphic communication lecturer Doug Speer currently teaches GRC 421: Production Management for Print and Digital Media. The class itself is not about social media, but students discuss the issue of whether or not it is ethical for businesses to screen applicants and monitor employees on the Internet.
“I think that a lot of companies are using it to try and get a glimpse of what the attitude of a person is,” Speer said. “You’re going to be able to see the daily life of a person, and (if) that fits into the model of what you’re expecting as a company.”
Whether or not this is ethical has sparked a debate throughout the country.
According to Speer, from an employer’s perspective, if they can legally obtain additional information on an employee, then it is fair game. He said, from an employee’s perspective, what they do on their own time, outside of work, is their own business.
Speer, who is also a manager at Poor Richard’s Press, a printing company in San Luis Obispo, said more and more companies are using Facebook, LinkedIn and a variety of other social media outlets during the interviewing process.
“I would hire on attitude rather than experience,” Speer said. “Part of your attitude is everything about you, not just what you are going to bring in 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. I can generally train experience.”
Speer said his company and his class both teach that, if used correctly, social media can not only help students find their first job by portraying a positive attitude, but it can also build contacts that lead to future success.
For example, LinkedIn, the 13th most viewed website in the world according to Alexa.com, a site that analyzes browsing behavior and web traffic, can be used to follow a person’s career path in a particular field that students can try to emulate.
“So people often move around to different companies because of contacts that they’ve made,” Speer said. “Social media keeps all that right in front of us.”
There are also a number of companies that have the same function as these websites, in that they act as a liaison between employers and job seekers.
San Luis Personnel Services (SLPS), and its director of placement Kim Murphy, work together with local employers to find the most eligible candidates for a variety of different positions. The SLPS does not incorporate social media into their decision making process, Murphy said, but they do not deny it has an effect on who gets hired in the end.
“We do not have clients that request us to do that,” Murphy said. “However, we have been told by clients that is something that they do regularly. When they are considering a candidate for employment, oftentimes someone from their staff will pull up their Facebook page and have a look.”
This goes back to the debate brought up in Speer’s class.
“There are all kinds of privacy issues that are going to have to be dealt with through legislation,” Murphy said. “That’s all going to be coming out over the next couple of years, and I’m sure there will be lots of back and forth on it: whether or not it is protected information and part of your privacy or if it’s public information because you’re posting it in public forum.”
Regardless of how social media evolves, it is currently the best way to find a job in today’s world, outside of personal contacts. Students who want to learn more about how they can use the Internet to find a job or how to protect themselves online can visit Career Services’ website to schedule an appointment with their college’s career counselor.