You can be outraged or you can be employed
Recently a particular advertising company caused quite a ruckus when it ‘shamed’ a job applicant on social media by suggesting the pictures she was posting made her a less than professional candidate. Quite rightly, social media erupted in outrage which, let’s be honest, is what social media does best. But that’s really not the whole story.
So here’s what you absolutely positively need to remember before you apply for your next job: People are judgey judgey. It’s mostly human nature. And ‘judging’ is literally what potential employers have to do when they review applicants. They literally have to decide what they do and don’t like about someone, and make a decision on a ‘winner’.
Now, you might think certain parts of your life have nothing to do with your application, and you’d be absolutely right. But you’d also be absolutely wrong. Because… life.
Everyone judges what they see on social media. Get used to it.
That one particular company may have done it publicly, but don’t for a second doubt 99 companies out of 100 do it as well, you just never hear about it because they’re not silly enough to post about it on social media. (You see? Posting stuff on social media that brings you undone can go both ways!!!)
We even have laws in Australia that prevent potential employers asking certain questions, or not implying you for certain reasons, but we all know it still happens. All. The. Time.
You can cry about how unfair it is. You can get outraged on social media about it. You can even campaign against it. What you can’t do, is stick your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t happen or be surprised when it does.
Employers look for clues on social media
Having had to employ people many times before, I can tell you now, sometimes there’s not a lot that separates candidates with similar experience or abilities. So you look for anything you can to help you make a decision. Any subtle clue that someone may or not be better than someone else.
If I look someone up on LinkedIn or some other social platform, I go looking for clues. Is there anything they’ve said or done that might give me a clue as to how they’d perform or fit in? If our team and work culture is X, and they’re posting about Y, it’s a red flag. Not because they’re a bad person. Not because they’re not professional. But because it raises a question about ‘fit’.
I’m guilty as charged on both counts. I’ve judged and been judged.
And let me be clear. I personally am a bit of a car crash on social media. I’ve definitely missed out on opportunities because of what I’ve posted. I once got told a place accidentally double-booked speakers for their event and got dumped, only to find out later on the down low I’d been given the flick because of something I’d posted online that they didn’t love. I could have cried about it or complained about how unfair it was because it was, but mostly that’s just life. Their loss, I would have been way better than the person they ended up with. 😉
Please also let me clarify, if you’re not being employed because of your gender, religious beliefs, or the colour of your skin, you should absolutely raise hell. You should totally wreak havoc. That’s not the sort of thing I’m talking about here.
Most of the time you’ll never have any idea why you weren’t successful. You might call up and ask for feedback, (which is a great thing to do by the way), and they’ll almost certainly lie and give you some cut and paste answer about experience or fit or something else, so you’ll never know for sure.
Lessons from fashion: remove ‘objections to purchase’.
I once worked with a fashion client who sold fashion for the masses. Their design philosophy was soul-destroying, but also incredibly successful, and it’s one you could learn from. They would look at clothes that were out in the market, that often had distinctive design features that made them popular in a particular niche and make similar clothes, without the distinctive features. They literally dumbed them down and made them more generic and described this process as getting rid of any ‘objection to purchase’. Because they weren’t about attracting a small amount of people with an outstanding feature so much as not scaring potential customers in the mass market away with anything out of the ordinary.
And there’s a lesson in that for all of us. Stand out as much as you can with the stuff that matters most. Be noticed and remembered for being an amazing candidate. But eliminate any possible ‘objection to purchase’ whenever you can. If that means giving your social media a cleanup, or locking it down to private for a while, or even deactivating it all together temporarily, then do it. Hell, moving forward maybe even consider what you post in the first place so you don’t have to worry about it later, because digital footprints, that thing you posted or commented on or liked or shared, have a way of coming back to haunt you when you least expect it.
The main thing is to remember is it doesn’t matter what should or shouldn’t be relevant. It doesn’t matter how the world should and shouldn’t work. We know potential employers look at this stuff, so if in doubt, give yourself the best possible chance of getting that job and chuck it out.
Or, maybe, like me, be unapologetically you, do whatever the heck you like, and just be happy to wear the consequences.