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Job Hunting - Neglecting the Background Image

Over the last week we’ve had some better news about unemployment. The number of people out of work in the UK fell by 97,000 to 1.86 million in the three months to December. The Office for National Statistics said the employment rate for those aged between 16 and 64 was 73.2%, which is a joint record high.

So after a long period where many have struggled to get a job, it’s heartening to hear that things are improving. But just because there are more opportunities, t doesn’t mean that job hunters will be able to waltz straight into a role. They will still have to polish up their CVs and interview techniques.

Getting a job starts with being considered a serious contender and that starts with the way they candidates present themselves to the world. One of my things that students who are poised to leave school to go job hunting or make applications to a university are told is “change your silly email address to something sensible!”

Having was hardly likely to reflect well on a high-flying London firm or a good university. You’d be amazed how often we come across this sort of address in candidates of all ages and it doesn’t end there! This is a first impression and it counts. Believe me, it does the sender no favours to use this type of email address.

If a company is making a big investment in someone, it will often conduct a few background checks. References aren’t what they used to be – they tend to be more telling by the things they don’t say. Practically everyone though has an online presence these days – even those who think they don’t – and that can be very telling.

Surprisingly, a CIPD survey found that most employers aren’t worried by a candidate who has no social media presence. Only a tiny percentage thought it meant the candidate is out of touch.

The same rules apply to companies. Many candidates search for their potential managers and bosses on social media to see if the prospective employer fits their expectations.

If you do have online presence, whether candidate or employer, make sure that you are creating the right one from a work perspective. There’s nothing wrong with Facebook or Twitter being a purely non-work outlet for a person – particularly if social media has nothing to do with the company in question – but the posts need to give off a good or at least benign image. Use LinkedIn to publish appropriate blogs and articles and Twitter feeds to make relevant and interesting comments about your profession.

Personal stuff should be kept personal, the online equivalent of what goes on tour stays on tour. A candidate going for a job that requires a smart appearance and the requirement to build sensitive customer relationships may well put off an employer who has seen Facebook pictures full of people passed out amongst empty vodka bottles. Equally if a manager who works for a company espousing high ethical standards fills his Facebook profile with evidence of greed and a disregard for individuals, this will likely put off an increasingly morally-focused graduate intake market.

A careless whisper type tweet can haunt you forever ..... The ability for almost anyone to see a tweet and then spread it across the web at huge speed has tainted many a career until the heat dies down. Emma Way, who tweeted that she was proud of clipping a cyclist whilst driving home, saw it as her biggest mistake. This was in 2013 and the heat has died down, but people still remember and there is plenty online about it that a new employer could find.

So the lesson is if you have an online presence, make sure it says what you want it to say.

Employment may not define everyone’s life, but it is a large and important part. Companies and candidates alike need to make the right impression. The information age gives us greater opportunities to promote ourselves, but an equal number of opportunities to mess it up! Since each generation is more adept than the last at seeking out our online blunders, this is an ever-greater challenge.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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