Scare stories of misjudged Facebook comments getting employees sacked, or a job offer withdrawn, have been commonplace since people have been able to use social media.
Now, Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at UCL has teamed up with RB (Reckitt Benckiser), a consumer goods global leader in health, hygiene and home, to coach jobseekers on creating a social media profile that will help win them a job.
The move comes as the company launches BrandMe, a microsite which gives young people advice and expert insight on how to define their own personal brand.
As RB’s BrandMe consultant, Dr Chamorro-Premuzic says it is "crucial” for jobseekers to maintain professional profiles for their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts as an increasing number of employers – nearly 40 per cent according to research – are using them for pre-interview screening.
He said: "Employers don’t just use social media to check for indiscretions; they look to see whether someone is influential or a good networker, whether they have a "presence", what their social rank may be.
"They start with LinkedIn and will often then go on to Facebook and Twitter for more personal information on the candidate.”
But while successful social media skills mean presenting an authentic, but well-edited, version of yourself online, many people are not very good at creating one. This may be because, as Dr Chamorro-Premuzic says: "Most people have no idea how they are perceived by others.” The trouble is Facebook and Twitter are often seen as a place to vent spleen or show off, without much consideration for the audience at the receiving end. Take the case of call centre recruit John Gibbs, who was fired before his first day. His bosses-to-be spotted a Facebook post saying: "Got a job at West Sussex county council. Look out immigrants – time for a crack down!” and another comparing his phone interview to phone sex.
Or the case of Connor Riley who was interviewed at Cisco Systems in the US. Shortly after the interview she sent a tweet saying: "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work”. A channel partner advocate for Cisco picked it up and replied: "Who is the hiring manager, I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web."
At RB the perspective is that social media can be used for positive discrimination as well as negative.
There is no company-wide social media vetting policy at RB, but managers do actively seek out the social media profile of everyone from interns to prospective candidates.