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Social Media and its impact on your job prospects

In January’s edition of The Telegraph there was a light-hearted article that touched on the use of Social Media, specifically Facebook, as a means of screening job applicants.  Specifically, researchers have found that your Facebook photo influences employers’ responses.

The main thrust of the article was that a favourable Facebook profile picture could increase you chances of securing an interview. The methodology being that your Facebook profile picture provides a more honest snapshot of you than those used on LinkedIn or other professional websites.

The article is based on research in Belgium which found that a good profile photo could increase your chances of interview by up to 40 per cent.  Speaking to The Telegraph, Professor Stijn Baert from Ghent University, who conducted the research, said “The candidate with the most favourable Facebook profile picture received approximately 21 per cent more positive responses to his application in comparison to the candidate with the least favourable profile picture,” “The difference in the chance to be immediately invited to a job interview amounted to almost 40 per cent.”

According to the article, the research team sent out 2112 fictitious letters of application in response to genuine vacancies in Belgium.  Applications had two levels of education, but otherwise the only characteristics that differed were the names and Facebook photos.

Fake Facebook accounts were set up with access just to profile photos. The profile photos were pre-rated by 195 reviewers who ranked them on a scale of 1 to 7 for five personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion and openness – as well as attractiveness.

According to the researchers’ results, highly educated people are more likely to be Facebook-checked than those who are less educated, likely because the latter are easier to screen out.

They also conducted an alternative experiment where photos were included with CVs, and found that Facebook photos had an equal impact to a CV photo.

“A possible explanation is that…employers see a Facebook profile picture as an honest signal,” the study said.

According to the researchers, this is the world’s first study to directly measure the impact of Facebook profiles on job opportunities, but it is not a surprise that employers use Facebook to screen.

BCL Legal – opinion

It is hard to determine how accurate the research is across every industry sector and job type however it does indicate a shift in how some employers screen and identify potential candidates.  It should be borne in mind that many clients will not have the time or inclination to seek out your Facebook profile and that equality and diversity legislation is likely to restrict such practice moving forward.  The same is true of asking applicants for their Facebook password at interview, a practice that some employers have apparently tried to implement in the US.

Whilst the research from this article is probably nothing to worry about, it does stress the importance of a professional online profile across all social media platforms.  What does your Twitter feed or Facebook page say about you?  Is your profile secure from public viewing? Have you deleted or removed any tweets, photos or comments which are risqué or non-PC?  If not, you should really think about some spring cleaning on your digital profile.

If you would like to see the original article and the four photos used by the researchers, please click on the following link:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/12099132/Your-Facebook-profile-photo-affects-your-job-prospects-study-claims.html

For more information, please contact Craig Wilson at BCL Legal. 

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