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Sunday, May 16, 2021

You are what you post: professionalism in the age of social media

By Cutter Kilgore


There’s an old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” when it comes to getting a job.

Some employers caution that, in the age of social media, it’s not what you know but what you post online that may or may not get you hired.

Employers are looking for red flags on social media accounts of potential employees, said Kjendal Hicks, a contract specialist for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

This could include fighting, drinking, hysterical posts and mood swings that equate to a lack of professionalism, Hicks said.

“I think it’s harmful to students to post things like that, especially on a public website,” Hicks said. “It allows me to weed out candidates that might otherwise have gotten through.”

Senior business major Cole Starkman said he has personally seen job candidates screened out due to a lack of professionalism.

Some employers comb social media sites to see how job applicants present themselves online. // Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

“In the business world, and especially in finance, everyone needs a LinkedIn, and your LinkedIn needs to be extremely professional,” Starkman said. “If it’s not professional, your chance of getting a job decreases dramatically.”

A 2015 study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior concluded that while companies emphasize looking at social media when making hiring and firing decisions, most young adults surveyed are opposed or neutral to the practice.

Forty-two percent of participants said that social media should not be used by employers for hiring or firing.

Starkman said employers could be checking online profiles, such as LinkedIn, for anything that might rule out a potential candidate.

“A lot of these companies look for buzzwords, like ‘commitment’ or ‘leadership’ or anything like that,” Starkman said. “And if they don’t find it, they’ll automatically throw you in the trash. I’m sure it has happened to me.”

Prospective employees may need to maintain not only a professional social media profile, but a popular one as well.

Alex Lee, vice president of Western’s Financial Management Association, said even if a social media profile appears professional, some recruiters are digging deeper, trying to garner information such as how many connections the candidate has.

“You’ve got to be connected,” Lee said. At least 500 or more connections on LinkedIn will get a candidate’s foot in the door.

“I was talking with a recruiter [for a job] as a possible financial adviser,” Lee said.” They said if you’re going to go down that route, your numbers have got to be up.”

Lee believes personal social media is becoming less of a factor in students finding employment than it used to be.

“Hiring is all about algorithms,” Lee said. “They used to check your Facebook, but then a lot of companies got criticism for that. These days, people aren’t as concerned. But if you’re doing something stupid, you’re going to get caught for it.”

Not every company uses social media in its hiring processes, but candidates still might find themselves being evaluated online for other reasons.

“Our recruitment team might look at Facebook and take your profile picture to upload into your file,” Hicks said. “And even if [the profile] is private, sometimes you can still find stuff. Anything you don’t want your parents to see, you probably don’t want your employer to see.”


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