"I've recently cleaned up my Twitter and Facebook accounts as I'm on a job-hunt, but how much difference does my online presence really make? Recruiters are still human, aren't they?"
Well Vicki, if your Twitter handle is @SexWithAnimals, your bio says you're looking for a relationship with something hairy and your latest tweet is asking where the nearest animal shelter is, how well do you think your application for the job of social worker is going to go? (Assuming you're not putting on a show at the Fringe :) )
In terms of career-jobs, almost all employers are now using online and social media searches to get a wider view of a person they're considering. What they find can sink your application faster than you can pour a gin, ask where all that water is coming from and wonder how you're ever going to get that giant cube in a glass.
Top 20 Twitter bio epic-fails
Your online presence could, of course, work strongly in your favour. A professional LinkedIn profile, an obvious interest in your field and an insightful blog can work wonders for you when a potential employer starts the online equivalent of turfing out your underwear draw.
That doesn't mean you have to be a colourless robot, living in a sanitised world of white minimalism and pictured praying for the souls of lost politicians.
Having a good sense of irreverent humour, a set of dwile flonking trophies and a strong interest in Zombie Apocalypse survival parties may all stand you in good stead. Employers derive great comfort from knowing that you're (more or less) a normal member of the human race and that you are capable of social interaction.
Although you'll be relying on the ability of a potential employer to make realistic judgements about you, there is absolutely no sense in loading a shotgun for them, standing in a shallow grave and wedging both barrels in your mouth by portraying yourself inappropriately.
We're not necessarily talking photos here. I thought I'd share with you the contents of an email I received from a very large graduate employer. I'd been working with them to advise on running online candidate background searches. (I've anonymised the information for reasons that will become all too evident.)
Read and BE AFRAID!
Thanks again for your help and pointers, we've finished our recruitment exercise and it went well. What didn't go so well was the appalling slaughter that resulted from our new systematic online candidate reviews. We rejected more than half of the candidates that we'd have ordinarily thought worth pursuing, from their applications. MORE THAN HALF!
In all fairness, some of those rejected candidates were strong, work-wise, even if their postings were completely insane. However, if in doubt, we always play safe.
I thought I'd send you a sample of what we found, along with my brief comments. I'll leave you to categorise them under the headings of: worryingly inappropriate; one wig short of a set of judgement skills and just downright psychologically disturbed.
Top 20 eyebrow-raising Twitter bios
- Study MechEng at Southampton where I waste the whole year pissing about until 2 days before exams … good life. (Aaaw, your application came in just too late.)
- I almost always don't make sense. (Shame.)
- Journalist from Chester, studing at the University of Lancaster. (Not going well, is it?)
- I'm really crap at describing myself. (Well, you've got the best chance of anyone.)
- I’m waiting for adventure to come my way. (Waiting? … Nope, doesn’t compute.)
- I pretend to be someone else, in exchange for money. (Can we pay them, then?)
- Dhinka chika dhinka chika ay ay oooooo …. (Informative.)
- I am not really a blobfish. (No kidding?)
- Inadequate. (Can we introduce you to Charles Darwin?)
- I would save the planet if people would listen. (Who said that?)
- 20, student, alcoholic, not a prostitute. (Short and sweet - like your prospects.)
- My views are my girlfriend's. (Send her along, there’s a spare interview slot now.)
- Iam a acca student and a short tempered person. My idol is The incredible hulk. (Incredible.)
- If life gives you lemons, squeeze them into people’s eyes. (‘Bunny-boiler’ wasn’t in the role profile.)
- I'm sweet, but a helluva bitch when rubbed up the wrong way. (How do you take rejection?)
- Views are mine, so fuck you. (And fuck you too.)
- Fuck average. Beast or bitch, it's your choice. (Not a team player, then?)
- Listen, smile, agree and do whatever the fuck you were going to do in the first place. (Dammit, if only we needed unreasonable people here.)
- Funerals are insane and the chicks are so horny – it’s like fishing with dynamite. (#ImOnTheWrongPlanet)
- 'You get money, you get bitches' (You actually want a job? Seriously?)
A minority of those candidates did survive, but the comments always made the reviewers lift the stone higher. My favourite survivor had, "I know the voices aren't real, but they have some REALLY great ideas…" as their bio. Very amusing, but honestly not worth their risk of losing a major employment opportunity.
So there you go Vicki - recruiters clearly are human and mostly appreciate good banter, but they remain conservative. Don't drink and write!
Jon Gregory, Editor
For more detail on this subject, read “Winning That Job: A kill or be-killed guide to job-search and interview preparation.” You can pick up it up as an e-book or paperback here on Amazon >>>
Keywords: social media, applications, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, interview, Charles Darwin.