- Nick Martindale
The first port of call for virtually any information is a Google search, while Facebook and Twitter are an obvious place to start when looking to get back in touch with old friends or work colleagues. Yet when it comes to applying for jobs, this ‘personal brand’ can be a double-edged sword for candidates, with social media posts, pictures and comments all potentially visible to employers.
“It is no secret that less than favourable posts on social networks which might be seen by potential employers can have a detrimental effect on a candidate’s perception and prospects,” says Neil Griffiths, Global Practice Leader, talent, communications and employer brand, at Futurestep. “In an age where information is so easily retrievable, candidates need to be aware that whatever they are posting on an open online network is going to be visible for all to see. Candidates need to put themselves into the recruiter mindset and ask themselves if they are going to want to be associated with them.”
From a recruiter’s perspective, this means there is pressure to ensure there is nothing out there which could embarrass clients in the future. “We have a duty to the individual and the employer,” points out Kate Shorney-Morris, Director at Zest Recruitment and Consultancy. “We are here to represent the individual as best as we can, but we must also conduct our own research. If ‘brand me’ does not sit well with us, then we can choose not to represent them. However, we tell them why and guide them in how to overcome the hurdle.”
Yet the availability of such personal branding also brings the potential to offer up a closer match between candidates and jobs, including the particular culture and ethos of the employer. Marianne Hatcher, Learning and Development Manager at BPS World, says having such extra information can be a help when deciding who to put forward for interviews. “The easier it is to make a judgement call, the easier it is to promote an application for a role,” she says. “It could be as simple as having the same hobby as the hiring manager; for instance, if your candidate enjoys taking part in triathlons and the hiring manager is currently training for one himself. You wouldn’t know this unless your candidate has specifically highlighted this on their CV or social media accounts.”
Recruiters can also work with candidates to ensure their personal brand projects the right image. Peter Cobley, Managing Director at Found Us, suggests using LinkedIn to talk about their professional experience and Twitter to inject a bit of personality into the mix. But he also advocates the use of blogging sites such as WordPress as a means of helping stand out from the competition and demonstrating credentials in a particular sector.
“WordPress provides a candidate with their own space on the web to hold a portfolio, and blog about topics that interest them,” he says. “Candidates should remember that being original gets you noticed, and WordPress is a good way of creating a personal brand that stands out.” He also suggests creating videos, which can be hosted on YouTube and posted on social media sites, as a way of building and promoting a personal brand.
Often, however, such advice will extend to what should and should not be made visible. Elio Recchia, Senior Business Director at Hays, suggests candidates regularly Google themselves to ensure they are in control of what is visible and what isn’t. “A lot of activity that people do in their personal time can be a great reflection of an individual, such as involvement with key associations or institutions, volunteer work or demonstrations of expertise in their specialism, but how this activity is accessed and presented to potential employers separate to activity that one doesn’t want accessed is the challenge,” she says.
Another tip is to suggest candidates ask friends or family to review any information that is available, says Iain Blair, Managing Director of RTM, to help determine whether it’s likely to project the right image. “Candidates also mustn’t assume that photos taken a decade ago won’t be found; if they’re still live on the web they could be taken into consideration,” he warns. He also suggests regularly checking privacy settings, as these can change, often without the user’s knowledge.
In the longer term, understanding, investigating and managing candidates’ personal brands could become an integral part of the modern recruiter’s role, rather than just an additional tool at their disposal. BPS World, for instance, offers its new recruits a training course called ‘ME PLC’, which asks them to explore their own personal brand and relate their brand to the values of the company. “If a recruiter understands the importance of personal brand, and that of the organisation, it helps them to identify the right candidates,” says Hatcher. “Matching a candidate’s personal brand to the client’s brand is as valuable as having the correct skills and qualifications for the role.”
Vivien Edwards, Owner of Cornerstone42, believes the use of such technology will eventually extend beyond checking up on candidates and become the standard way for candidates to present themselves for positions. “The way people will be recruited in the future will change dramatically,” she says. “My personal opinion is we will use social media and video technology, and the CV will be retired or used only by traditionalists. Recruiters and candidates will have to change to keep up and remain competitive.”