When I train job searchers to use social media to find work, my focus is usually on LinkedIn, which is the most obvious tool for this purpose. I have also described how Twitter can be an excellent tool for job search, if used properly.
Facebook, however, is a more complicated tool for job search, because it crosses over the boundaries between the personal and professional. Despite this (or maybe because of it), Facebook has become a popular recruiting tool, with more than half of employers reported using it to gather more information about candidates.
Given the fact that almost half of all Canadians are active Facebook users, and that employers might either deliberately seek out candidates on Facebook (as indicated on the graph from Jobvite.com), or maybe simply come across them as they browse the results of an online search, it is important that job seekers give some thought to what their Facebook profile says about them.
The question for you, as a job searcher who uses social media, is how to go about setting up a profile on Facebook, which would support (or at least not interfere with) your job search.
You could choose any of these options, each with its own pros and cons:
Option #1: Make your Facebook profile private, including limiting who sees your timeline, photos, profile info, “likes” and friends. A site that helps users monitor their own social media use, recommends a number of steps for Facebook users to protect their professional image, including narrowing who can see the profile and previous posts to “friends” only.
- Pros of total privacy: no concerns about what employers may think or see on your profile.
- Cons: With changing Facebook privacy settings and the fact that you cannot control your friend’s privacy settings, you can never always be sure that you are totally private. Also, employers who will check your profile won’t have a chance to be impressed by you in a positive way.
Option #2: Create an open and public professional Facebook presence. This means carefully controlling ALL aspects of your profile, including choice of friends, activities, and “likes”, to maximize how you are seen by employers.
- Pros of total openness: you will be able to be consistently controlled and will impress employers with your professionalism.
- Cons: you will have to keep a very close and strict control over who are your friends and how they behave, which will make the Facebook a lot less relaxed and enjoyable.
Option #3: A mixed approach, allowing some select information to be public, with posts that are deliberately chosen to portray yourself in specific ways. On a regular basis, you will carefully share a post which you would like employers to find. Such posts may be related to your field of work, or might simply reflect on you in such a way that impresses employers positively.
A recent article in LA Times suggested that employers could effectively use Facebook to assess candidates for certain characteristics, called “The Big 5 Aspects of Personality”. These include: Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscienceness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.
Facebookers could use their profiles to reveal the best of these five aspects:
- Extroversion, which is defined as a “pronounced engagement with the external world”, is valued by employers because it implies high levels of enthusiasm and sociability. Of course, not all jobs require employees to be highly extroverted, though all would value some level of outgoingness, because it means that candidates would be easy to get along with. On Facebook, extrovert behaviour on Facebook could include having a large number of engaged friends, and actively interacting with them in a warm and outgoing way.
- Agreeableness refers to “cooperation and social harmony”, which is the person’s ability to get along with others. Agreeableness is HIGHLY valued by employers. On Facebook, Agreeableness can be seen when you are helpful, perhaps offering advice and showing appreciation for others. It can also include showing concern for others. Agreeableness is even more obvious by what it isn’t: NOT expressing negativity, or complaining nor swearing.
- Conscienceness has to do with impulse control — that is, how much care you take in what you say to whom; being cautious and thoughtful. It is likely that most employers place a high value on this in most fields. On Facebook, you can show a conscience in the nature of the posts you share, choosing clever and thought-provoking posts, participating intelligently in conversations, as well as not getting caught up in arguments.
- Neuroticism refers to the levels of anxiety, depression and anger expressed by a person. Obviously, these are characteristics that employers would rather not deal with. Employers want to know that potential hires have moods and behaviours which will not impact on their social relationships, decision-making or ability to cope with the pressures of the job. On Facebook, you can show your low levels of Neuroticism by how you interact with your friends, as well as the topics of your posts, sticking to positive and enthusiastic topics and language.
- Openness to Experience refers to people who are open-minded, flexible and creative. Not all employers will value this equally (for example, those in the arts require such a mind-set, whereas more traditional fields such as banking may need it less, or even prefer a more conservative type of personality), though all employers prefer employees who are adaptable to change and are able to solve problems. On Facebook, this can be shown through the content of your posts, your comments and your interests, focusing on topics which are appropriately creative and open.
- Pros of a mixed approach: you will be able to express yourself on Facebook and enjoy interacting with friends, as well as benefit from exposure to employers that may impress them enough to improve your chances to get a job.
- Cons: you will have to be very careful about the settings that you chose for each post and make sure to carefully check how the profile is seen to others (tip: on Facebook Timeline there is a “view as..” option on the top left corner, which will allow you to see your Timeline as non friends would).
To sum up, with the increased odds that potential employers may be checking out your Facebook page, it is worth carefully thinking through how you are going to use this social media tool. If done with care, Facebook can become a very important tool in your job search kit, giving employers more opportunities to be impressed by your personality, beyond that which they may learn on Twitter, LinkedIn, and — even more so — your resume.