Social media have become an integral part of the job search, both for job seekers and hiring managers. It’s now common practice for job seekers to use social-networking websites such as LinkedIn to market themselves and for hiring managers to use these sites to research potential candidates before making contact.
But how influential are these networking sites in the hiring process, particularly the recommendations, endorsements and other social-media tools? Hiring managers, recruiters and employers were asked if they consider social-media recommendations in the hiring process, and their answers may surprise you.
Yes, these sites and tools can offer important insight
Not only are professional-networking sites a great way for hiring managers to get to know more about candidates, but they’re also helpful for learning about their working relationships with others. “Do I care about social-media recommendations? Absolutely,” says Jenson Crawford, senior manager of software engineering at PriceGrabber.com. “I use LinkedIn to see what recommendations a candidate has and who they are from. [The] positives are when their recommendations are from both supervisors and co-workers.”
Crawford says that if the job seeker is applying for a management position, he also looks for recommendations from the people who reported to the candidate. “The negatives are if the recommendations are one-sided — lots of recommendations from co-workers, but none from supervisors. Social-media recommendations are not the only data that I use, but they are an important tool in helping me make an informed decision about a candidate quickly.”
These sites can also be an important screening tool for hiring managers. “As a human-resources leader, I often would have hiring managers check applicants online before committing to interview them,” says Lisa Chenofsky Singer, an executive career management and leadership coach with Chenofsky Singer & Associates. “When they searched candidates and a LinkedIn profile appeared, many have called their mutual connection to see what they thought of the candidate. This is a common practice.”
Somewhat; these sites can give mixed messages about a job seeker
Most hiring managers, recruiters, employers and professionals believe that these sites can be a good supplemental tool in researching candidates but shouldn’t solely be relied upon to make a decision. However, these professional profiles can tell a hiring manager a lot about a candidate in other ways. “I don’t think it is necessary that someone have dozens of recommendations, but if someone doesn’t have any, it could be a red flag,” says Megan Fox, career coach and résumé writer. “Employers may jump to conclusions that the candidate doesn’t build good relationships within the workplace, or perhaps leave jobs on bad terms.”
Recommendations aren’t the only part of your profile employers are looking at either. “My business partner and I hire contractors on a rolling basis, and while we may take a glance at who’s a ‘recommended’ candidate via LinkedIn, it’s not a big deciding factor for us,” says Joan Barrett, owner of The Content Factory, a company that specializes in online marketing, social media and web content. “However, we do look at profiles when hiring, especially when it is for our social-media department.”
Barrett looks for the following things when viewing profiles:
1. Clever, clean and error-free updates.
2. A presence on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Quora.
3. Consistent interaction.
4. Updated profiles.
“I suspect that we will start looking more at LinkedIn recommendations as time goes on,” Barrett continues “It’s a great alternative to calling a list of references and hoping that the person you’re speaking to is actually the candidate’s former boss and not just a former roommate from 2005. What’s also useful is checking out if we have any mutual friends and connections, because we can contact those individuals and ask their opinion of them, if appropriate. That’s beneficial no matter what position we’re hiring for.”
No, these sites can misrepresent a candidate
Some hiring managers and HR professionals don’t necessarily believe that a robust networking page is a good indicator of a job seeker’s capabilities. “I never use recommendations or endorsements from LinkedIn or other social-media sites,” says Cindy Smith, HR manager at Kyriba, a company that offers cloud-based, treasury management solutions. “The reason is because they are typically a reciprocal agreement: ‘I’ll write something nice about you if you write something nice about me.’ For HR professionals, these endorsements carry about as much weight when it comes to endorsing a person as a ‘Like’ on Facebook or a Twitter follower and are often little more than an online popularity contest. I view a personal recommendation from a close colleague or co-worker — who would also be willing to speak in depth about their strengths and weaknesses — as infinitely more credible than a brief social-media recommendation.”
The bottom line? While a personal-networking profile and supplemental tools such as recommendations and endorsements can show the time and effort you’ve put into your career, they won’t replace cover letters, résumés and interviews anytime soon.