Assessing an applicant’s online personality

Comparing a candidate’s online personality with the one they present in their CV can tell you a lot about their suitability and commitment to their career.

Online personality on social media sites

When it comes to hiring someone new, especially in a small business, making the right choice really matters.

It’s a big financial commitment: there’s advertising the role, time for interviews, the HR and legal stuff and time spent training, mentoring and reviewing the newbie’s work as they get up to speed. There’s also the opportunity cost of hiring a poor candidate when you could have filled the position with someone better.

Ideally, you want to know as much as possible about a candidate’s personality, potential and work ethic in advance. And applicants know this.

Yet, so often candidates leave out key ways of presenting and selling themselves; writer’s who don’t have a link to their blog, anyone who doesn’t list their Twitter handle. If it’s Googleable, it’s public and a prospective employer will find it, so why not show it off?

What they don’t say, says more than what they do

Of course, no employer is going to stop Googling candidates, no matter how much information is given on a CV. But what about when that research throws up an online personality that’s entirely absent from an application?

I don’t mean drunken pictures or badmouthing ex-bosses, but simply a side of themselves that they are proud and confident enough to share with the world, but which they have chosen to omit to show you as a potential employer.

To me, it suggests they are concocting a false persona that they think will fit what you are looking for, instead of demonstrating that who they are, and what they care about is a match for your company.

What the experts say

The PRepguide sets it out plain and simple:

Showing employers that you have nothing to hide, but instead are actually borderline showing-off your social media identity not only shows candidness and professionalism, but confidence in who you are as a pre-pro and your willingness to make life easy for him or her.

The nature of your company, the role you are looking to fill and the personality of the industry you are in all play a factor too. If a candidate is in the creative industries but only lists LinkedIn, you have to wonder if they really understand business they want to be in.

Similarly, having a very public Facebook profile, with pictures of kittens or XBox screenshots demonstrates a worrying attitude for someone going into corporate finance.

To be clear, an XBox fan might make a great financier, but someone who doesn’t understand the formal environment in which they will be working, probably won’t.

Decorum still counts

Of course, while I say that candidates should embrace their personality, there are still lines to be drawn between personal and professional.

If a candidate uses Twitter just to keep in touch with friends and retweet jokes then they should make the account private: it shows they are serious about pursuing their career. There is nothing wrong with candidates having a private online life that they don’t share with you, as long as it is truly private.

Along the same lines, if they are going to bare their personality, warts and all, they can still be sensible at the same time. Wacky Twitter handles and poorly though-out email addresses simply tell you that they care more about provoking a reaction than progressing their career.

One person, one personality

Ultimately, when you Google a candidate, you want to see if who they are on paper matches who they are online. If it does, and if they have been upfront about the ways they share that personality online, then things are looking good for the interview.

If, on the other hand, you find a side of them that is not objectionable, but simply at odds with their CV, then put them straight in to the reject pile because they won’t be with you for long haul.

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