5 Steps to Social Media Reference Success
By Jeff Shane, Professional Resume Writer
In recent years, the reference-checking landscape has changed dramatically for both prospective employers and job seekers alike. The advent of social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook has provided new tools to enable prospective employers to research reference data on a prospective candidate – and that candidate may be you.
From the hiring manager/recruiter perspective, vast personal networks can be accessed – the membership of LinkedIn alone exceeds 135 million members. It has been estimated that a significant majority of hiring managers have recruited through social networks during 2011. In addition, many hiring managers check candidate’s backgrounds using tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook (in addition to general Google searches). Prospective employers can access the information on these sites even before a candidate is interviewed in person. An employer can type in the candidate’s name, previous employers and dates of employment and might well come up with the names of the candidate’s former associates (names that the candidate might not want accessed by prospective employers).
What are the ramifications for you, the job seeker? Again, a prospective employer might be able to access (your) former references beyond the scope of those names you would normally provide to them as references. Simply offering up the name of your former Human Resources representative, or of your immediate supervisor, might not be sufficient if an employer is able to utilize social media tools to access the names of your second-level supervisors or other key associates.
This being the case, what steps should you be taking now to ensure that your social media data wouldn’t be used against you? Consider these five proactive steps to manage your references in the Internet Age:
- 1. Take the time to research yourself online prior to beginning your interview process. (One example: “Google” yourself.) The odds are very high that your application, resume and credentials will be reviewed by prospective employers for inaccuracies – better that you identify them first, if they exist.
2. Be aware that employers are legally prohibited from using certain social media data they may discover about you during the hiring process, e.g. data pertaining to your race, religion, age, sex, sexual preference, etc. Such employers could open themselves up to lawsuits were candidates to discover they had based their decisions on such information.
3. Consider expanding your reference list to prospective employers beyond simply an HR contact or supervisor. Key associates like a supportive second-level supervisor or a matrix manager(s) can be key advocates in your behalf and might be more supportive than traditional references like immediate supervisors.
4. Find out what your references will say about you prior to beginning the interview process. Use a third-party reference verification firm to find out what key references at your most recent places of employment (in particular) will actually say about you. Increasing the scope of your reference search (to second-level supervisors, etc.) may identify additional favorable references in senior positions whose names you may wish to invoke during the interview process.
5. When negative references are identified during a third-party search, consider taking remedial action intended to discourage such references from ever offering similar negative input to your future employers. Tools such as Cease & Desist letters have proven extremely effective in neutralizing future negative input from unfavorable references.
In summary, the ever-increasing prevalence of social media has given prospective employers added tools to check your employment references. By recognizing this and taking proactive steps, you can better ensure your ability to manage this process to your advantage and towards gainful new employment.
About Allison & Taylor:
Allison & Taylor, Inc. is a global firm with 27 years of experience in professional reference checking and employment verification. Since 1984, the company has been featured on CBSNews.com, NETSHARE.com, the Wall Street Journal, NationJob.com, Glamour Magazine, New Woman Magazine, Worth Magazine, the Detroit News, the St. Petersburg Times, and has been rated a "Top Executive Site" in Forbes magazine. They are open 7/24 for orders via our Web site at www.AllisonTaylor.com.