Having no social media presence could do you more harm than good, and one social media post could make or break your professional brand. 2 experienced HR professionals share their perspectives on the impact of social media on today’s hiring process.
In today’s world, social media holds significant weight when it comes to interpersonal interactions, communication, and even the way you present yourself to society. However, for some people, it’s not that serious. They simply use it to post memes, their OOTDs (outfits of the day), and what they had for lunch.
What we cannot deny is that social media is a powerful tool depending on how you wield it. Especially, if you are trying to establish yourself as a household name in your industry.
Back then, having no social media presence was not such a big deal and whether you were a CEO somewhere or an entry-level professional, whatever you posted was not necessarily the company’s business. However, as the decades went by social media and technology began to evolve. You could connect with entire communities sharing the same interests and anything you posted mattered to people.
Once smartphones came into the picture, social scrutiny became even more considerable. You could innocently post a picture of yourself on Facebook in a bar having drinks with friends. Moments later, your mother (who’s also your Facebook Friend) calls you from the village asking, “So you want the whole village to know my child takes alcohol?” And you had to take the picture down because you don’t want the people of Shamakhokho to know your mother raised a “drunkard.”
I digress…back to professional matters.
With the evolution of social media came the emergence of personal branding, particularly in this age where anyone can become an overnight celebrity by trending for the right (or wrong) reason. This is why companies today look through potential job candidates’ social media pages to get a first impression of the kind of person they might let onto their team.
I’ll assume you have been working hard throughout your careers to establish yourself as a skilled expert in your industry, meaning you’ve obviously done a lot to build your professional brand. When you’ve been consistently doing exceptional work and your name comes up in certain rooms or conversations, I’m sure you’ll want people to say, “So and so is one of the best (insert profession here) I’ve worked with in Nairobi/East Africa/Africa.” If that sounds like you then congratulations on having built a solid professional brand. You have every right to puff your chest.
Oh, I should probably define what a professional brand is first.
Your professional brand is the story of who you are, what you stand for, and the unique strengths distinguishing you from your competition. This is what matters to potential employers, networking contacts, and colleagues. Your brand is essentially the reputation you build up throughout your career journey.
Fiona Kemoli, one of the HR professionals featured in this article, as you’ll see below, defined it as follows:
“Your professional brand is you in your totality. Traditionally, we’ve always described ourselves by our professions and not by our competence or capability, but today, people are selling their capabilities more than their technical competence. When I’m recruiting, I’ll assess whether you have the character to be a good fit in the organization. Even if you’re not a perfect fit, as part of your brand, can you also demonstrate what you can do, and how you can translate your technical skills into a work environment? It also means being cognizant of your limitations and able to learn to survive your experience in the organization. It’s not just about being a professional in a specific industry.”
So where does social media fall in the professional brand puzzle? It has the power to shape your narrative depending on what you put out there for the world to see. So even if you’re a marketing sensei or an engineering guru, one bad tweet about how you once treated your colleagues or subordinates badly could easily get you cancelled professionally (not just on the timelines).
This is the type of stuff recruiters look for, particularly since it is easy to type your name into an online search engine and find anything on the internet with your name attached to it. So by the time you’re walking into the interview, they probably know more about you in addition to what’s on your application.
Read also: Social media mistakes to avoid when job seeking
Two seasoned HR professionals shared their perspectives on the impact of having no social media presence on our professional brands and whether it affects the hiring decision.
First off, we have Yvonne Nasi, a talented HR professional with over 8 years of experience in talent acquisition and management, succession management, and learning and development within human capital consulting, Pay TV, and the banking industry.
Then there’s Fiona Savane Kemoli, a HR consultant specializing in Strategy Organization Development and Design and Performance Management who’s been working in the field since 1991. She’s also designed a performance management tool called The Employee Performance Fuelling Process (EPFP), that’s competency-based and links employee performance directly to the company’s strategy.
Fiona Savane Kemoli
How does social media play a role in your professional brand and why is it important to have an online presence?
Yvonne: Social media currently plays a big role when it comes to culture fit and brand ownership. It’s become much simpler to have a glimpse of one’s values from social media. Twitter for example is very useful in seeing how people think about certain (controversial) issues as well as their interactions with others. From a recruitment perspective, social media is a marketing and networking tool, where we should be mindful of how others experience us and how we want others to experience us. Employers are mindful of this as well.
Fiona: You have to have a social media presence because that’s how we’re communicating these days. It doesn’t matter which social media platform you’re on, whether it’s a professional one or not. That’s the online presence you create. Businesses have also realized that it’s also a very powerful tool to attract people who would want to work for them.
It’s a good way to sell yourself in terms of your capability and interests as an individual. Unfortunately, recruiters judge you based on what they find on social media when really people are just expressing their opinions, especially when it comes down to the freedom of speech. As employers, we need to respect that candidates can’t be several versions of themselves. I can have a political view and that should not disqualify me from employment. I’m not coming to you as an employee for my political view.
As a HR professional, do you consider a candidate’s social media presence before making a hiring decision?
Fiona: I don’t do that much recruitment anymore, but when I do, unless I am considering taking that person further into the recruitment process, I ask them first if I can look at their social media. I always tell people that if there’s anything they wouldn’t want people seeing on their social media, then clean it up. However, at that stage, I’ve already known who the person is because when I do my recruitment interviews, it’s a conversation with the candidate. I’m more concerned and looking to understand your awareness of the world and the industry you’re going into.
What do you look for when going through potential job candidates’ social media profiles as part of the hiring process?
Yvonne: Beyond experience, social media is a great way to verify information and to look at overall fit outside the resume. It’s also a great way to network and build the talent pool. As a recruiter, I look for inappropriate or offensive photos/ language, type of information shared, and interactions with followers as an insight into personal relationships.
What would you advise job seekers to consider when it comes to building their social media presence and meshing that with their professional brands?
Fiona: Understand who you are in terms of your talents and capabilities and sell your strengths, but also be open about where your opportunities for development are. Be active and don’t be afraid to ask for help in that area. Share content that adds value to you, your sector, country, or social group both locally and internationally. Sell the reason you’re the best person and the difference that you bring. Identify your skill and don’t be scared if other people also have the same skill. It just means you have competition and that’s not necessarily unhealthy; what makes you different is the niche you’ve created for yourself.
Yvonne: Whenever you're interacting on social media and building your online presence, it's best to think and do your research before you post. Is what you’re saying going to be true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, or kind? More organizations are going on different platforms to see what potential candidates are saying and how they interact with others. One wrong comment could take you out of the running in a second, while a well-thought-out post will go a long way in making a positive impression and widening your reach.