Pitfalls of Social Media in the Job Search

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Pitfalls of Social Media in the Job Search

Dec 06, 2019

Will I find a job? That’s the universal question ringing through my peers’ ears. Or anyone for that matter. Job competition is fierce and with the prospect of a recession coming in December, I am definitely asking myself how I am going to land my first job after graduating in May. But before all that, I need to first make time to find a job opening.

The beauty of living, and hopefully soon-to-be working in the Digital Age, is that I have social media to lend a helping hand in my job search. In the past, job seekers would have to comb through job listings in newspapers or inquire in-person at various locations. Now, finding a whole slew of job openings is just a click away thanks to social media sites like Linkedln. After setting up a profile and adding a resume, I can not only explore job openings in my preferred areas, but also I can connect and learn about important professionals in my desired field.

Nevertheless, the convenience of searching for a job through social media masks a great threat to landing the discovered job. While on the surface social media seems to be a boon to job seekers, it can greatly harm employment prospects if you look a little deeper at the biases and potential misconceptions it fosters that can cost people potential positions.

While it is great that employers can put a name and a face to a resume, it can sadly expose individuals to various forms of discrimination and biases. Just by clicking on an individual profile, an employer can make assumptions about a person’s race, gender, and sexual orientation, to name a few of the areas that can be generalized. Rather than focusing solely on the contents of a candidate's resume and cover letter, an employer has more information and now a visual aid to make snap judgements. Even though it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, gender identity or age, employers are still human. An employer's life experiences may predispose them to unconsciously discriminate and discount some candidates when searching for a new employee.

Similarly, while a person can reserve the right to hide certain profiles from prying eyes by putting his or her profile in private mode, this is sadly not enough to ensure personal images and perhaps, inappropriate information, to remain private. Often times people seem to forget what they post on the internet is both public and eternal in the sense that even if a post it deleted, it could be saved somewhere else by another individual. In a time where sharing pictures of people “living their best life” seem to be all the rage, a single saucy photo or an unflattering photo from a party can tarnish the reputation of a potential job candidate in the eyes of the employer. To make matters worse, job candidates are often unaware or kept in the dark to the extent of social media scrutiny they receive, thereby robbing them of an opportunity to explain or rebut any information gleaned.

From my understanding, social media seems to have become an unofficial component to job candidates' background checks. Due to the assumptions and misconceptions it can foster on job candidates, I believe that all employers should seek the approval of job candidates to screen their social media accounts, or at the very least limit searches to information that relates to the job opening.

Aubree Ouellette, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: Does social media help job-seekers find work or does it harm employment prospects? The class covers copyright and social media. Aubree is a Public Relations major with a minor in English Literature.

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