Is Is Facebook affecting your job search? You’d better believe it!

I recently polled my Free Job Tips Newsletter members to understand how job seekers were using social and professional networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

I also wanted to understand what job seekers were doing with social networking sites; including, what was working during their job search, and what wasn’t.

The results of the poll, suggest that job seekers don’t understand the impact of their social networking activities on their job search.

The results of the poll were as follows:

When asked if they were using social networking tools in their job search, the results were as follows:

  • 75% of respondents said they have a Facebook account, yet only 9% are using it for their job search.
  • 57% of respondents said they have a LinkedIn account, and 36% are using it for their job search.
  • 24% of respondents said they have a Twitter account, but only 6% are using it for their job search.

The survey clearly shows that job seekers understand the benefits of using social networking sites like Facebook to keep up to date with friends and family members. It also shows that a majority of job seekers have a LinkedIn profile, and a majority of those users are using LinkedIn during their job search, in some form or another. The twitter results are what I would have expected. Twitter isn’t specifically a ‚Äújob search‚Äù or ‚Äúnetworking‚Äù tool, and as a result, is still on the fringe.

The fact that 75% of the respondents have a Facebook account, and yet only 9% of the respondents ‚Äúthink‚Äù they are using Facebook during their job search suggests that job seekers don’t understand how employers are using social networking sites.

Job seekers ‚Äúthink‚Äù that they aren’t using Facebook in their job search, yet they aren’t locking down their Facebook profiles from outside users like employers. For instance, the default security setting for updates on Facebook is ‚ÄúEveryone‚Äù. And ‚ÄúEveryone‚Äù doesn’t just mean your ‚Äúfriends‚Äù or ‚Äúfriends of friends‚Äù, it means the entire Internet, including employers. So, unless you have modified your security settings, each of those little updates might already be publicly visible. Facebook security settings are convoluted, difficult to understand, and constantly changing. As a result, most Facebook users aren’t updating their security settings. (In another post, I’ll spend more time explaining each of the Facebook privacy options.)

In a 2009 study from CareerBuilder.com, 45% of employers stated they were using “social networking sites to confirm or deny a candidate a job offers”. An additional study from CareerXRoads in 2010, suggests that even more employers are expecting to use social networking sites during the recruiting process in the 2010.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re applying for a job that requires managing people, relationships, sales, or technical expertise, you can bet that employers are doing a thorough social background check on you during the application process.

The survey results also seem to show that while 57% of the respondents stated they had a LinkedIn profile, only 36% of the respondents, stated they were using LinkedIn during their job search. It seems like job seekers don’t understand that LinkedIn is the new FREE Resume database for employers. If you want to be found by employers, you need a LinkedIn profile. Employers have tighter budgets and therefore are not spending the $9,000 per user license to access the resume databases of major job boards, like they did a couple years ago. More and more recruiters are using sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter where they can search profiles of members for . They have more and better candidates, and basic accounts are free!

My interactions with job seekers confirm what I think these results are showing… job seekers are assuming that their social profiles are just that, social, and they aren’t being viewed by employers. Unfortunately, that’s a really dangerous assumption.

While there have been numerous highly publicized cases where employees were fired, or new hires were called out because of their social networking posts (ie. CiscoFatty), the mass majority of job seekers don’t understand the importance of their social profiles.

Employers are watching and don’t seem to know or don’t know what to do about it.

If you’re a job seeker and are still wondering how LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter are affecting your job search, or are a little confused about how it all works, subscribe to my free job tips newsletter. I regularly post articles about recent job search strategies.

Ignore Social Networking during a job search at your own peril!

45% of Employers are using Social Networking sites to research job seekers

CareerBuilder recently polled 2,667 hiring managers about their use of social networking in the recruiting process. The results of the poll are something that every job seeker, no matter what level of experience or industry should come to understand.

The job search rules have changed. The process of simply applying with a resume, no longer exists. Employers have access to the social networking sites. They know how to use them, and they are making hiring decisions based on them. Realize this now, and use it to your advantage, or perish!

Here are some of the results of the poll, and my comments:

45% of the employers in the survey admitted to using social networking sites like LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com, Myspace.com, and twitter.com to research job seekers in their recruiting processes. Another 11% stated they would start this practice this year. In total, that’s 56% of employers… a majority!

Personally, I think this number is much higher, especially if you consider some of the recent statistics from Linkedin and that fact that the CareerBuilder study apparently did not include staffing firms and executive recruiters.

In a recent post, LinkedIn recently stated that 40% of Fortune 100 companies have paid LinkedIn Recruiter accounts, meaning these firms are paying LinkedIn to provide better tools for searching, researching, and communicating with job seekers.

Additionally, back in May 2009, LinkedIn stated they had over 500,000 Human Resources and Recruiters as members. And finally, for that last 3 years, “Internet Sourcing” has become a very lucrative training business for consultants who teach employers how to find and track down candidates online.

Employers, staffing firms, and executive recruiters are using LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to make hiring decisions.

So, what are employer’s doing on these sites? What are they looking for? And what should job seekers be on the lookout for?

35% DID NOT hire a candidate because of what they found online.

Top 7 Reasons Employers Disqualified candidates:

  1. Posting provocative or inappropriate photographs or information. Get rid of the non-professional stuff on your MySpace and Facebook sites. If your friends are posted dumb things, defriend them. It’s your career and job at stake. Your true friends will get over it.

  2. Posting content about the candidate drinking or using drugs. Clean up your act!

  3. Bad mouthed their previous employer. Remember what you put online will get out there. Employers will not consider candidates who show traits of insubordination. Granted, social networking isn’t about the employer, but your attitude is what employers are viewing. Having a bad attitude will probably follow you, regardless of the employer.

  4. Lied about qualifications. Back to square 1, make sure your profile and resume match, including experience, skills, time lines, etc.

  5. Shared confidential information from a previous employer. Why would you do this anyways? And then make it public? Be careful of what you say, to whom and when.

  6. Showed poor communication skills. While this might seem odd, I have seen a lot of this when visiting a job seekers twitter profile, and then their blog, I find lots of typos, grammatical issues, and a clear lack of proper grammar. (Believe me, I’m no writer either, but check what you publish.)

  7. Another 14% of employers disqualified candidates because the candidate used “text messaging” short-hand, like smiley faces and GR8 (great) on their applications or in emails. Remember your audience and medium. Email and your job application require professionalism, not short-hand.

Top 7 Reasons Employer’s Hired a candidate after a social screen.

  1. Profile provided a good feel for the candidate‚Äôs personality and fit. This might seem a little odd, but this is one of the biggest reasons employer’s are doing social screens in the first place. They want to minimize the risk of a bad hire. If you have a social footprint that matches the companies brand, that’s a good thing. If you act professionally online, employer’s believe you will act the same way when working for them.

  2. Social profiles matched professional qualifications. Again, make sure what is publicly available about you matches your resume. Another hint would be to “google yourself”. Type your name into Google Search, and see what comes up.

  3. Candidate was creative. Your social profiles will in fact show this.

  4. Candidate showed strong communication skills.

  5. Candidate was well-rounded. Again, back to the “personality”. Employers are looking to see what you do, and how you act in a social setting, even if it is online.

  6. Others posted good references about the candidate.

  7. Candidate received awards and accolades.

What to do next?

If you are searching for a job, and you are concerned about the above, the good news is this… You can do something about it. It doesn’t take long, and it’s pretty easy:

  1. Get on LinkedIn, complete your profile, and make sure that your profile matches what your resume says.
  2. Get on Facebook, and if you are already on Facebook, make sure you delete any non-professional images, notes, wall posts, comments, and anything else that might cause an employer to discredit you.
  3. Get on Twitter, and start Tweeting about your job search and your professional expertise.
  4. Google yourself, to know what employers are going to find out about you.

While there are a lot of other things you can be doing, the above 4 steps are basic, yet critical

Additionally, don’t let any of the statistics above scare you. Profiles and social networking sites give you a lot of control over the content and messages. You can block users, delete messages, etc. But you must be vigilant!

In summary, remember that what you put online can be re-published instantly and ubiquitously. So, if you don’t want your mother to read it on the front of the New York Times, don’t put it online. It doesn’t matter if it’s your Facebook page or tweeting with friends, we are talking about your career and your personal brand.