Recruiters: Social media ‘footprint’ key advantage

Your online social media persona has never been more important. But social media can be a blessing or a curse to job seekers, IT recruiters say.

“Online presence and the online footprint is a big thing right now,” says Chris Brady, division director of Robert Half Technology. While he says that we’re not quite at the stage yet where not having a social media profile can hurt your chances of finding employment, you’re certainly missing out if you don’t.

Take the fact that some companies are now recruiting exclusively through LinkedIn, he says. LinkedIn, as the “professional version of Facebook,” is the platform that naturally attracts the most attention, from both job seekers and employers, he says.
But Facebook, Twitter and other more casual sites can be important in determining what your overall persona looks like. For example, some employers will look at your tweets to see what your interests and extracurricular activities are, or perhaps to see how passionate you are about a certain topic. “Sometimes they’re just looking for red flags of maybe why they wouldn’t hire this person,” he adds.
Twitter is also increasingly becoming a place where smaller recruiters can compete with larger firms like Robert Half for candidates.  To do so, they have to go after potential candidates more aggressively, searching for keywords, hashtags and looking at balance sheets of positive and negative tweets.
Tim Collins, CEO of Toronto-based IT recruiting firm Stafflink Solutions Ltd., says this is a way to undercover the hidden gems. “The great thing about those people is very few of them are active job seekers — they’re passive. That’s kind of the Holy Grail in our world.”
Larger companies may have spent decades putting together a database of candidates. But social media provides a ready-made database that any recruiter can use, he says, leveling the playing field.
For job-seekers, this new level of scrutiny can be daunting. As new technologies, it’s still an open question as to how casual and friendly a person (or business) should appear on social media sites. Brady says striking a balance between showing personality and keeping things professional depends on what organization is thinking of hiring you. But erring on the side of caution and keeping things professional is never a bad idea, he says.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be yourself, but simply choosing the appropriate place to do it. “If you don’t want Facebook to be part of your online footprint, make sure you have your security settings locked down so that it’s only you and the people you want who can see it,” says Brady.
The most important thing to remember is that social media makes whatever you say a matter of public record, he says. And even the smallest things can add up to big trouble if you’re not careful. 
Collins says job-seekers sometimes underestimate the lengths employers or recruiters will go to gather information. Some people will avoid the obvious no-nos, like posting offensive or obscene pictures, but will blog about controversial topics, thinking that nobody will find it. With the blog searching tools now available, “they can find it if they want to,” he stresses.
On the plus side, though, blogging can help job-seekers in many cases, assuming that the blogs contain the right keywords. “It may be down the road that a recruiter like us is searching based on blogs that you’ve put on LinkedIn and will come after that person proactively,” says Collins.
Looking at its dangers and the opportunities together, Collins says social media is overall a very positive development for recruiters and job-seekers alike, doing a “lot more good than bad.”
“Because of the viral aspect of it people have opportunities to see thousands of different jobs around the world.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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