Think before you tweet: Employers are now scanning online activities

  • Lavina Mulchandani & Alifya Poonawala, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 21, 2016 18:22 IST
(Photo: ShutterStock; Imaging: Shrikrishna Patkar)

Even before you walk in for an interview with a prospective employer, he or she probably knows whether you are impulsive or organised, conservative or liberal, a voyeur or a ranter.

Because they have met you, without you knowing it, on Twitter, Facebook, even Instagram and Pinterest. And your personality on these sites will tell them a lot more about your likes and dislikes, who you are and what you might be to work with than your carefully crafted CV.

Take the case of 20-year-old Abhishek (name changed on request). The techie from Powai was part of a slanging match on a Facebook page set up by a bunch of college mates in 2015.

“We had a 10-day competition of sorts, posting embarrassing photographs of members from rival groups, trading insults etc,” he says.

He never would have imagined that those few days of what he saw as harmless banter would cost him a dream job months later. But that’s exactly what happened.

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“I was denied a job in the US because the company’s HR policy involved checking the candidate’s frequently used keywords on social media and because the abusive language I had used, most of my key words turned out to be curse words,” says Abhishek.

He is now working at a much smaller IT firm, in Mumbai. “I am in the process of deleting these posts so I can try again, for a job in the US,” he adds.

KEEP IT CLEAN

New-age hiring is focusing on scrutinising a candidate’s social media pages to see how they portray themselves to their friends and followers, says Nitin Pathak, a social media consultant at Mumbai-based advertising agency ESTBranding. “Your online persona has become almost as important as your actual CV, in terms of reflecting your suitability for a particular profile,” Pathak adds.

This doesn’t mean you should project a false image, be overly self-conscious, or pretend.

“One easy thumb rule is, just limit the amount of personal and intimate updates, so as to not embarrass yourself later,” says Siddharth Gupta, vice-president and head of marketing at AasaanJobs, an online marketplace for entry-level employees.

Creating a fake image, in fact, could backfire, Gupta adds.

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That’s what happened with a candidate shortlisted by Vidhi Kapadia, 30, director of a Parel-based digital marketing firm called Scribble. He chose a 21-year-old for a sports-based profile. “His Twitter and Facebook updates were up-to-date, with check-ins at various sports matches and links to things he said he had watched on the internet,” says Kapadia. “But when we met I realised much of that had probably been faked. He knew far less than he should have and seemed to have updated his pages just to look cool.”

The candidate never got the job. As Kapadia puts it: “It’s important that your real-life personality matches the image you portray on social media.”

So are you too cool, just cool enough or a hot mess? Read on to find out.

USE THE 6-SECOND RULE

First of all, you must have a LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter account, or you’ll just come across as a dinosaur.

And while these are private accounts — of course you should be free to post all the selfies you like, share and like links that interest you, join in debates etc — you should also be starting to use them to your advantage.

“What you do on social media can really make a good impression,” says RSS Mani, vice-president of institutional development at ITM Group of institutions, Vashi. “If you do volunteer work with an NGO, post pictures of the projects you are working on. It’ll show how passionate you are and how you care about your community. If you really do love to travel, an insightful post can make you stand out from all the others who say they do.”

Also use these platforms to create, expand and leverage a network within your chosen field.

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Very importantly, avoid vulgarity, aggressiveness, racism, sexism and obscenity.

“Students must make sure not to resort to knee-jerk reactions to situations and other people’s posts,” says Bulbul Bhattacharjee, professor of communication skills at Usha Pravin Gandhi College of Management, Vile Parle. “Do not indulge in hate speech, or come across as religiously biased, or become aggressive about your political views. These will impact your credibility with future employers and work cultures and could affect your professional and even personal prospects in the future.”

Impulsiveness is a major problem, especially when you combine young students and the instantaneous nature of the digital media.

“You may think you are addressing one person, but it is visible to everyone you have opened yourself up to,” says counselling psychologist Aanchal Khandelwal. “It always helps, in such cases, to follow the six-second rule and pause for six seconds before you respond to something on social media. That’s all it takes to avoid a rash reaction, calm your nerves and give yourself a chance to decide what you really want to say.”

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If you still decide you want to react emotionally, send the person a direct message.

Keep in mind that you have hundreds of friends and contacts on Facebook, and every post creates some impression in the people who see it.”

If you’ve already violated a tonne of these rules, don’t fret. You can always hit reset, set up a new account, be honest and explain why.

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