A new study of UK social media users has revealed the majority of people significantly alter their online behaviour when they think a potential employer or recruiter may be watching.
Eight in ten (81%) will edit social media activity after applying for a job, but six in ten (61%) don’t actually know how visible their social media activities currently are.
The study, conducted on behalf of Manchester-based surveillance and security consultancy Online Spy Shop, also revealed:
- 70% admit falsely ‘fluffing up’ their social media profiles to impress recruiters
- A third (34%) admit ‘virtue signalling’ on social media to impress potential employers
- Going dark – 29% stop posting on social media when applying for jobs, and 8% have deleted or suspended accounts to avoid scrutiny
Google UK autocomplete data suggests candidates are concerned employers or recruiters may check their Facebook profiles. – Autocomplete suggestions accurate as of November 11th 2016.
False first impressions
Of the 1,000 UK adults surveyed who have one or more social media account and have been through a recruitment process in the past three years, 70% said they’d added interests and activities to their social media profiles specifically to make themselves more appealing to potential employers.
One respondent admitted that she regularly shares content on social media without reading it first, in order to appear interested and engaged in her industry, which is digital marketing.
“I retweet content from industry influencers a lot. Things like industry insights, reports, analysis and news, but I rarely read it all first. Sometimes I’ll just read the headline and add a comment when retweeting. But I do trust the people who are producing the content that I share.”
34% said they’d deliberately performed some sort of online behaviour to specifically appear ‘virtuous’ to potential employers.
Of those who admitted doing this, 41% said they’d posted statements they believed reflected positively on them and 23% said they shared news articles that reflected positively on them.
The study also revealed that 81% of Britons perform a social media ‘audit’ – checking for, and removing if necessary, any content that may reflect badly on them – when under consideration for a job. Of those who audit, 58% end up removing or editing their own content.
Compromising images, such as being pictured with alcohol or using drugs, political comments and edgy jokes are the most common things removed during an audit.
34% have altered their privacy settings to avoid scrutiny from a potential employer and 8% have actually deleted or suspended social media accounts while under consideration for a job.
Steve Roberts, who runs Manchester-based surveillance consultancy and equipment supplier Online Spy Shop, thinks candidates and employers need to be extremely careful with their use of social media during the recruitment process.
“It’s no surprise to me that people’s online behaviour changes when they’re in contention for a job. People naturally want to use every tool at their disposal to promote themselves, even if they’re exaggerating their interest in certain areas.
“But the fact that more than half of the people involved in our study didn’t know whether employers would be able to delve into their private lives via social media – and to what extent – was alarming. Everyone should be aware of how public or private their social media profiles are, especially if they’re applying for a job.”
“However, I’d urge employers to be cautious in their use of social media as a recruitment tool too. They may discover information they’re not permitted to request on application due to equal opportunities legislation, such as age, race or sexual orientation. Having a quick snoop at someone’s Facebook account when you receive their CV could bias the recruitment process and potentially land you in a lot of trouble.”