Written by: Juuso Waldén
The landscape of job search has been changing drastically over the last years and decades as the Internet and Social Media have taken an even bigger role in this process than ever before. In this text, the underlying effects and changes for every job hunter of today are discussed. The goal is to provide insights and views about the change that is currently taking place in the field of social media and the job market.
(Source: Punchedclocks.com, 2015)
Losing the humane touch
As the social media becomes an increasingly prevalent means of recruiting, the humane touch will evidently fade away as time passes. The phenomenon is already present, as applicants have to fill up the forms in the Internet portals, use social media to find open positions and crawl several websites to find positions that are available. While Internet and social media have brought lots of life changing and easing innovations, these innovations have simultaneously overwhelmed with the amount of possibilities and resources that are available for use (Labrecque, vor dem Esche, Mathwick, Novak, and Hofacker, 2013).
However, the situation has not always been like this, as in the past, when social media and Internet were not around, job applicants were assessed based on their actions on the spot, in an “offline” setting. Basically this meant that one could go directly to talk with the storeowner or employer that then tested the suitability of the candidate for the position. This also allowed the candidate to show the true colors of him/herself, without needing to create a personal brand to get the possibility to have an interview. It was assumed that the person presented him/herself as is, and the actions taken communicated the potential future behavior of the applicant in that position (Labrecque et al., 2013).
Strangely enough the situation has turned around today, as it is hard to get the possibility to introduce yourself in the context of a personal interview. In today’s environment when an interview is eventually offered, it is often conducted over telephone or Skype. While, doing the interview over virtual communication tools offers lots of flexibility and convenience, it lacks in human touch, as it does not offer the same functionalities as physical face-to-face meetings. The handshakes and the ability to feel and sense each others presence has its own meaning, even though it seems that its value is underestimated in the times of technological revolution (Sol, n.d.).
This scene is maybe best demonstrated in the movie “Up in the Air” from the year 2009, where George Clooney plays the main role. In the movie, a new depersonalized system is used to fire people from their work. While the system is nearly flawless and offers huge cost savings, it lacks the human centric touch that is so crucial, when working with humans. In the end, we are not machines and we have feelings and presence that cannot be sensed trough screens, not yet at least.
Personal Brand, a necessity of our time
The lessening amount of human contact in the recruiting process has led to a situation in which personal brand is needed in order to advance in the recruiting process and to be noticed in the first place. While, in the past time was spent going from one potential work place to another, today that time is spent creating the brand strategy and identity in social media (Deighton and Kornfeld, 2009). The social media has started to play a more important role as it is used increasingly in the process of recruiting (Vilnai-Yavetz, & Tifferet, 2015; McMullen, 2015).
Already three years ago (2013) a survey done by careerbuilder.com revealed that around 37 % of employers use social media to find suitable candidates to fill open positions (Smith, 2013). Today this number can be expected to be even higher. This means that in an increasing manner the job searcher has to be more aware of what is said and done in social media. In order to succeed in this new environment, a solid strategy is needed (Berthon, Pitt, Plangger & Shapiro, 2012; Smith, 2013). This entails that personal image is having a bigger role than ever before (Vilnai-Yavetz, I. & Tifferet, 2015; McMullen, 2015). For this cause, one should have a unique personal brand that is constructed using the brand principles, helping to manage and communicate the desired image to potential employers (Deighton and Kornfeld, 2009).
The first step in this process is to discover the core identity of the brand, meaning personal attributes, attitudes and benefits that could be offered to the potential employer. However, these should be picked with care and consideration, as these are the aspects, which are communicated through social media to the potential employers showcasing the unique potential and capabilities (Gensler, Völckner, Liu-Thompkins and Wiertz, 2013; Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker and Bloching, 2013)
This professional image should be interpreted as a storyline that flows through the different social medias. As a professional you are building a narrative that intrigues employers’ attention and communicates afore mentioned attitudes, benefits and attributes. These are personal strengths and abilities that would offer value to the employer if they choose to hire you (Smith, 2013). The coherent story throughout the social media should communicate an authentic, reliable and consistent image while promoting professionalism, reliability and trustworthiness in a coherent manner (Singh and Sonnenburg, 2012; Smith, 2013).
Networks, the bridge to the future
In the social media environment, the personal brand is measured against several metrics that include the amount of connections or followers, activity, posts shared and rankings etc. (Labrecque et al., 2013). For example, the desirability of LinkedIn profile is measured against views that one has against the connections and professionals similar to the person in question. Hence, the power and impetus of the profile comes from the network that one has (Berthon et al., 2012; McMullen, 2015). In this process networks are playing a crucial role as the content that is created and shared with networks of the applicant, affect the personal reputation and the possibilities to have even surprising job opportunities (Labrecque et al., 2013; Conner, 2014).
As an example, if one has multiple connections with people who share job positions in their social media (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) the more possibilities the person has compared to those who are not in the sphere of these connections. While the person has a high amount of quality connections, it is easier to be up-to-date on positions that are available (McMullen, 2015). This can be seen in the form of electronic-Word-of-Mouth (e-WOM) as individuals share content including job posts in their feeds, hence spreading the information in social media and internet (King, Racherla, and Bush, 2014).
In the recruiters perspective it is easy to advertise the position in social media, as it gets wide coverage. When in the past the knowledge about the available positions were mostly local, based on newspapers or actual Word-of-Mouth (WOM). Today those positions are experiencing “spillover effect” as they are known globally rather than locally. This can cause the amounts of applicants to be higher and positions to be more competed (Berthon et al., 2012). Which in turn causes the increasing demand to have a personal brand to stand out from the crowd. Networks play an essential role, as they are the main way to create and maintain connections in the social media that help to get the desired position (McMullen, 2015).
However, having a vast amount of contacts raises a question of the amount of genuine contacts. How many of those contacts one really knows? It is not uncommon to see profiles that have 1000 or more connections (Conner, 2014). In the recruiters’ perspective, how can he/she be sure that these contacts represent the candidate behind the contacts and the image given? In this sense, the age of social media and Internet have really given the power to the individuals as they can communicate the image and brand they want and the recruiter is responsible to ensure authenticity of the applicant (Berthon et al., 2012; Labrecque, 2013).
Privacy matters – or does it?
This is connected to the push that is coming from the recruiters, as 93 % of recruiters are using social media to find suitable candidates (Jobvite, 2014). Social media has become a standard that has to be followed in order to succeed in the job search (McMullen, 2015).
In most job applications there is nowadays a possibility that allows employees to use already existing information from social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Facebook or even Twitter to pre-fill the information about themselves (McMullen, 2015). While this is a fast and functional feature, there is a down side to it, granting rights to companies to use information from your social media accounts (Vaccaro, 2014).
Is convenience becoming more valuable than privacy in todays Internet based world? According to Statista (n.d) 64 % of global Internet users are concerned of their privacy in the Internet. Yet, results of survey do not go together with the actions that are taken, as 83 % of respondents would use Facebook as their main social media to apply for job positions, while only 36 % stated that they would use LinkedIn (Kasper, 2014). In other words, most of the job searchers are communicating their personal brands in wrong medias, while they are offering access to vast amount of very personal information that can in the worst-case work against the applicant.
However, this is not always the case as 29% of employers state that finding something positive directed them to hire the candidate (Smith, 2013). Show casing that the social media is not always working against you, but in your favor as well. But how much the employer knows about you after all? You can assume that they know a lot, based on the image and impression that you have given to them via social media.
For this reason, there are ethical requirements on both sides. As an applicant, there should be an aim to build an impression that is truthful, yet protecting your privacy. It should disclose only amount of information that as an individual feel comfortable. On the other hand as a recruiter there are demands to conduct the process ethically, keeping the privacy of information found in mind. The main goal should not be finding as much dirt as possible, but instead to find information relevant for the position, while having the notion of an individual with rights in mind.
In a nutshell
Like it or not, the personal branding has come to stay and job searchers need to adapt to this new environment. This means that one can build an outstanding personal brand in the virtual world by using the tools that the age of Internet has offered to us. In this case, there should be careful consideration about what kind of content is shared in the social media, where it is shared and how much information is offered to the networks. More importantly this information should be flowing like a storyline through social media displaying authenticity and coherence.
However, there is also an alternative way to stand out in the crowd. As more and more people engage in creating their personal brand solely in the social media, utilizing the personal and humane methods of the past could serve also as a means to stand out and showcase our brand in a more personalized way. Social media and Internet can provide help to us in many ways in our job search, but the basics of traditional communication should not be forgotten.
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