I sit surrounded by application forms as my inbox pings in another ‘we regret to inform you but on this occasion…’ rejection email, that I then add to my ‘Job Rejections’ folder with gritted teeth. I do my best to push the ‘It’s not fair’ rant that is threatening to take over my day, as let’s be honest, I am not the only one in this situation. Searching for a job is hard enough, and add an economic recession, crippling odds and thousands of fresh-faced young students about to graduate into the work place within the next month, and the task becomes impossibly difficult. There are thousands of job hopefuls who sit racking their brains thinking of the one innovative and profound thing that will woo our potential employers into a signed contract of employment. We write and proof read our application forms as best we can, and attend any extra classes that we feel will give our CV’s that je ne sais quoi it so desperately needs.
In my case, I recently attended a seminar entitled ‘Social Media and Recruitment.’ After all, any extra knowledge that would give me an advantage over my adversaries couldn’t hurt. As I sat among various other would be employees, I felt my world come crashing down as the young woman delivering the workshop informed me that a massive 92% of employers use social media sites to decide which candidate they will recruit to a post. This statistic utterly horrified me, and not, I hasten to add, because I have a dark and mysterious past that I am attempting to hide, but instead because of the sheer volume of trivial, silly and ridiculous things my social media sites have collated over the years.
Like most young people today, my digital footprint is huge. We are the generation that piloted MySpace, moved onto Bebo, graduated into Facebook and now have a Masters in Twitter. We could, for the first time, document every moment of our life for the world to see, and oh how we did!
With lives that revolved around going to lectures, hanging out in the students union and going on holiday with your friends, what did it matter if every detail was put up for the world to see, and of course to entice jealousy from 567 of our ‘closest’ friends. However, now that we have our potential bosses curiously peeping around our social media sites, have we just shot ourselves in the foot with a double barrel action rifle?
Although 300 of my friends might ‘like’ the picture of me falling clumsily out of a giant teapot with a sunflower hat on my head, while simultaneously holding a watering can aloft in a prize trophy manner, my future employer is understandably going to think that I look like an utter cretin.
As a practicing Muslim who doesn’t drink and never has, logic dictates that I should have less reason for concern than others as there are no pictures of me embarrassingly drunk or being sick in a drain somewhere. However, unfortunately there still seems to be an array of cringe worthy pictures and videos that I have no desire for anyone from the potential workplace to ever set eyes on. There are numerous photographs detailing my extreme clumsiness, and alcohol or no alcohol, I always seem to be falling off a chair somewhere, and that’s not to mention the multiple videos of me trekking round Europe, gloriously belting out off key renditions to the entirety of Sound of Music. Now anyone who isn’t close family and friends who happen to watch it, the phrase ‘what a moron’ is inevitably going to float through their stream of conscience, and quite frankly I don’t blame them. If I saw a similar video clip of some crazed woman pretending to be Julie Andrews, I too would think they were incompetent and probably wouldn’t want to meet them, let alone hire them in a professional capacity.
Yet apparently, these are the things that employers will look through and judge a candidate on. It is no longer an application form, a CV and a hurried interview in which we are all on best behaviour. Instead, they now have access to a different side of me. Yet, do I ever really want my boss to know the ‘real me’? I have a work identity and a home identity and I certainly never want the two to mix. I am never going to yoddle around the office singing and nor am I going to take ridiculous pictures with inanimate objects, but these are things I am sure I will continue to do in private. Surely there should be a very distinct line between work and home life and if there is, is it fair for employers to judge our work life on our home life?
We have loaded the gun and handed it to our perspective bosses. Privacy settings are still an option but that only begs the question, ‘what are you hiding?’ which leads us right back to the status of ‘undesirable candidate’.
Even the supposed ‘cream of the crop’ (I obviously use this term very lightly) are not immune to these problems and this year’s Apprentice candidates can be found in various embarrassing poses online. There is a cringe worthy picture of Jordan Poulton in fancy dress and what is clearly a highly intoxicated state, not to mention the infamous picture of Luisa Zissman in nothing but a tutu! The pictures may have been taken years ago when they were younger and more immature (somewhat difficult to believe I know) and they may be different people now, but I cannot help but look at Jordan and laugh recalling his drunken state, not to mention that every time I see Luisa being professional in the boardroom, all I can think of is her pink tutu and very naked breasts that I have now seen on numerous occasions.
I have peeped through the keyhole into their private lives and as such, the façade is broken and I can no longer take these candidates seriously. If I, and I’m sure many others, feel like this, you can take it as certainty that once an employer has seen a completely ridiculous photograph or video of ourselves, they will unsurprisingly view us in a completely different light.
If potential employers are trawling through our digital footprint to see what kind of people we are, it is safe to assume that our media output needs to drastically change. If the Youth police commissioner can be sacked/resign over tweets from years ago, then it is definitely not safe to stamp our emotions, bitchy comments, judgements and sarcastic wit onto our social media sites. Let’s be honest, the person who’s Facebook status or Tweet reads “Bitch please! If you get in my face one more time I will cut you” is clearly not a team player, and if the status happens to read “Thank God it’s Friday, been waiting for this all week”, they obviously have a bad work ethic. These comments may be ‘Retweeted’, ‘Favourtied’ or ‘Liked’ by the masses, but it certainly does not scream ideal employee to bosses.
We have instigated a perfect environment for employers while simultaneously building a cell around ourselves and if this is the case, we are no longer free to document our every idle thought in the hope someone will find it hilariously witty. In the future will our social media become about the weather and how hard we have worked this week at work and how much we love our jobs?
So as my inbox continues to ping in the ‘you gave a great interview but we decided to go with someone with more experience’ emails, I resist the temptation to tweet about useless interview feedback as I cannot allow my natural emotional responses to be seen as hostile and unable to accept criticism, and instead, I monitor my every tweet and status update so that under no circumstances, do I ever come across as myself, but instead, the perfect employee who is ‘Looking forward to Monday and getting back to work #LoveMyJob’.