Jobseekers fear career fallout from social media

Social media use in online job search rising, but anxiety also growing over potential career damage from social networks, finds new survey.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

More people in Singapore are including online and social media platforms in their job hunt, but there is also growing apprehension over the potential career fallout from social networking sites, finds a new survey by global recruitment agency, Kelly Services.

Released Thursday, the Singapore report of the Kelly Global Workforce Index (KGWI) found that more than one in five, or 21 percent, of respondents surveyed in the country used social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to search for jobs online.

Yet, 46 percent were also "worried" that content on their social networks could "adversely impact" their careers. In addition, more than a third of respondents admitted to deliberately editing content on their social media accounts to avoid problems related to their career, the report found.

More than 900 respondents in Singapore were polled in Kelly's annual survey which was conducted between October 2010 and January 2011, and studied approximately 97,000 respondents in 30 countries across the Asia-Pacific, Americas and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) regions.

Using social media to find work is becoming commonplace as it allows jobseekers to more specifically target the position or organization they want to work in, said Melissa Norman, managing director of Singapore and Malaysia, Kelly Services.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, she noted that the growing "apprehension" among the respondents reflected higher awareness about user privacy, and added that most people have a tendency to "share more than they think they are sharing on social media sites".

With technology advancements today, Norman stressed that "nothing is private if it's posted" on social media sites and shared with everyone in these networks.

The study found that 45 percent of Generation Y respondents, aged 18 to 29 years old, saw being active on social media as essential to their career advancement. Respondents from older generations, 34 percent of Gen X respondents aged 30 to 47, and 35 percent of baby boomers aged 48 to 65, said likewise.

The three generations, however, differed in their choice of social media channels when seeking out employment. Facebook was the most popular among Gen Ys, while baby boomers and Gen X respondents favored LinkedIn, the report added.

Norman noted that people, particularly the younger generation, need to be "mature" when posting and sharing information on social media, such as not posting photos which can create or cast a negative perception of them.

Users also should not "abuse the site" by using it as a platform to vent frustrations, but utilize social networks in a "positive manner" where they can engage with people who share similar interests, she advised.

Jobseekers could also use social media sites to share work-related issues, and create their own personal branding for "wider outreach to potential employers" that are looking at new methods to source for talent, she suggested.

Social hiring still nascent
Although the use of social media in job search is on the rise, this growth has yet to be reflected in terms of hiring through social networks. A mere 2 percent of respondents in Singapore said they secured their most recent position through social media sites, the Kelly study discovered.

Norman attributed the "low rate" to the fact that most of the respondents utilized social media sites as community platforms to share views and comments with people who share similar values or interests, and not specifically for job hunting.

According to the survey, 31 percent of respondents secured their most recent jobs through recruitment or staffing companies and headhunters, while 21 percent did likewise from online job postings.

Furthermore, 64 percent of respondents spent an hour or less a day, while 10 percent spent no time at all, on social media to look for work. Only 26 percent of jobseekers spent an hour or more daily on social media looking for jobs, the report found.

According to Norman, employers are becoming "more adept" at using social media as a recruitment and employment tool.

People do not just discuss recruitment on social media sites, but also views and opinions about work, industry issues, career options as well as the good and bad places to work at, she explained. Hence, she noted, it "makes sense" for employers to be attuned to what is being discussed in these communities because it may impact how they are perceived in the job market.

"It is clear that social networking is changing the way people seek out work and engage in conversations about work opportunities," she added.

More employees today, especially those from Gen Y, are "continually wired 24 by 7", and human resource (HR) practitioners are becoming "more innovative" in how they seek out talents or conduct reference checks on potential candidates, Norman told ZDNet Asia.

Social media sites today allow more individuals to link up and connect with people who are engaged in similar interests, therefore, narrowing the gap to "bridge potential employers with candidates", she added.

According to Kelly's findings, employers in the government, retail, education, science and pharmaceuticals were the most active users of social media.

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