Vet­ting by so­cial me­dia

Awad Mustafa

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page -

A CV, smart suit and a good interview was once all it took to get a job but now a Face­book or Twit­ter page can scup­per your chances. talks to em­ploy­ers about how and why so­cial me­dia is now part of their se­lec­tion process

Be­fore the ex­plo­sion of global con­nec­tiv­ity and so­cial me­dia, sep­a­rat­ing our pro­fes­sional and pri­vate per­sonas was easy.

You could be a pro­fes­sional, com­pe­tent man­ager at the of­fice dur­ing the day and a party an­i­mal with your friends at night and, with a lit­tle care, none of your col­leagues would be any the wiser.

In today’s con­stantly con­nected world, how­ever, the two paths cross – and po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers are on the look­out for any dis­crep­an­cies or warn­ing signs.

“In this day and age, we live in a glass house where all our lives are out in the open,” says Zis­han Khan, di­rec­tor of Terra Casa Real Es­tate in Dubai.

For em­ploy­ers, the op­por­tu­ni­ties so­cial me­dia have pre­sented for back­ground checks sim­ply did not ex­ist in the past. “Once the can­di­dates have been screened, we al­ways go and stalk them on so­cial me­dia,” says Khan.

A can­di­date’s Face­book posts, Twit­ter comments, In­sta­gram pic­tures, YouTube up­loads and even “likes” can de­ter­mine whether he or she will be able to se­cure the job they have been pur­su­ing.

“We look for red flags,” says Magdy El Zein, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Boy­den Mid­dle East and North Africa.

“The can­di­dates we look for are se­nior ex­ec­u­tives, so if we find a lot of pri­vate in­for­ma­tion about the per­son or com­pany posted on Face­book, that would be con­sid­ered a red flag be­cause this is cre­ates a risk for the com­pany and the in­di­vid­ual.

“We also look at be­hav­iour – for ex­am­ple we check Twit­ter, what comments are posted, what kind of en­gage­ments are made. in what style and if they are ag­gres­sive or not.”

El Zein said that so­cial-me­dia schedules of po­ten­tial can­di­dates is also mon­i­tored, as well as the ac­tual con­tent.

“For ex­am­ple, if we see a per­son nor­mally post­ing personal comments on Face­book be­fore noon ev­ery day, that shows that they are do­ing it on com­pany time and there­fore raises an­other red flag,” he says.

A hir­ing out­look for the year pub­lished last month by www. showed that nearly half of re­cruiters in the GCC ex­pect em­ploy­ers to hire ad­di­tional staff. Hir­ing ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, will in­crease be­tween now and Septem­ber, cre­at­ing a flurry of so­cial-me­dia search- es to form personal insights on po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees. A 2015 sur­vey by REACH Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices sug­gests the re­gion is lead­ing the way in the adop­tion of new re­cruit­ment prac­tices.

Of more than 1,000 em­ploy­ers and job seek­ers polled, 95 per cent of em­ploy­ees used so­cial­net­work­ing sites to look for jobs, and al­most half of man­agers use so­cial me­dia dur­ing the re­cruit­ment process.

More than 85 per cent of sur­veyed job seek­ers con­sid­ered the ef­fect their dig­i­tal foot­print can have on em­ploy­a­bil­ity as an im­por­tant is­sue.

The re­search also re­vealed that 48 per cent of hir­ing man­agers check the so­cial-me­dia and dig­i­tal foot­prints of can­di­dates.

About a third of the man­agers (30 per cent) ad­mit­ted to re­ject­ing po­ten­tial can­di­dates be­cause of ques­tion­able personal or pro­fes­sional traits they no­ticed on­line.

“Hir­ing man­agers glean a lot of in­for­ma­tion about you from so­cial me­dia, in­clud­ing de­tails about the types of work­place cul­tures you thrive in, your values, personal skills and at­tributes, and the over­all like­li­hood of you be­ing suc­cess­ful in their or­gan­i­sa­tion,” says Bethan Robbins, com­mer­cial di­rec­tor ofre­cruit­ment agency Hays Gulf Re­gion.

“Job seek­ers should re­view ev­ery as­pect of their pro­files, from their stated work ex­pe­ri­ence to their pro­file pic­ture, as well as the de­tail they share about their lives out­side of work.

“It is crit­i­cal that job seek­ers por­tray a con­sis­tent mes­sage across all plat­forms – one that is aligned to their ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions.”

Me­dia-re­cruit­ment spe­cial­ist Tom Wat­ter­son says that in one case, a can­di­date’s pro­file was sent to a com­pany who checked her Face­book page and saw she was cov­ered in tat­toos and provoca­tively dressed. The com­pany de­clined to interview the can­di­date as a re­sult, he added.

In an­other ex­am­ple, the con­tents of a Face­book post ru­ined a can­di­date’s chances.

“We had one per­son come in for a po­si­tion of sales man­ager,” says Khan. “When I met the can­di­date he seemed like a great per­son and he fit the pro­file we were looking for. How­ever, when I Googled the man I saw some dis­crim­i­na­tory re­marks posted on his Face­book ac­count. This gave me an in­sight of his personal be­liefs which did not align with our com­pany’s and I did not even give him a call back.”

Pos­i­tive so­cial-me­dia pro­files are rel­e­vant, up­dated, spe­cific and com­plete, ac­cord­ing to Suhail Masri, VP of Em­ployer Solutions at

“Ev­ery va­cancy has cer­tain re­quire­ments and ex­pec­ta­tions from the ap­pli­cants,” he says. “Cer­tainly, not all job seek­ers are equal in terms of suit­abil­ity.”

So­cial me­dia can be an hon­est reflection of the can­di­date’s per­son­al­ity, in­ter­ests, and pas­sions, Masri said. How­ever, nav­i­gat­ing so­cial me­dia must be ap­proached with cau­tion.

“There could be many el­e­ments on a can­di­date’s Face­book ac­count, for in­stance, that are not re­lated to their qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the job but may sway the em­ployer’s im­pres­sion,” he says.

“It is im­por­tant to main­tain an ob­jec­tive lens when con­duct­ing a so­cial-me­dia search in order to avoid any dis­crim­i­na­tion or false im­pres­sions,” he says.


Hero Im­ages / Getty Im­ages

Red flags – em­ploy­ers will check can­di­dates’ so­cial-me­dia pro­files to gauge their suit­abil­ity. Post­ing dur­ing work hours, for ex­am­ple, is frowned upon.

An­tonie Robert­son / The Na­tional

Zis­han Khan, CEO of Terra Casa Real Es­tate, warns firms will do back­ground checks.

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