Missed out on a new job recently? This is probably why.

Photos like this won’t work well for job seekers (Photo: Facebook)


That Facebook photo of you draped across a bar late at night, showing how much of a good time you were having, could be why that latest job application got no further than the bin.

Applicants are being warned it is now standard practice for their social media profile to be checked when it comes to assessing their suitability for jobs.

Both recruitment companies and employers will be looking at your online presence, although at different stages in the process.

Chris Kent of Hays Recruitment says job seekers need to edit what is publicly available.

“The preparation for job seeking starts with your online profile,” he said.

“Your email address that you might have set up as a backpacker travelling Europe might not be the most appropriate email for a job search.

“An email address like ‘Raving till I’ is obviously not going to be particularly appropriate. It’s indicating that at some point in your life, [you had] a pretty strong inclination to being out all night.”

Business and finance student Alex*, who has both a Facebook and LinkedIn account, successfully applied for an internship recently at one of the big four accounting companies in Perth, and was surprised at what he was told.

“On the first day of induction, they sat us all down and said, ‘ok, we’ve seen many people not get jobs, miss out on jobs, miss out on promotions, been told the clients don’t want to work with them simply because they haven’t put their social media profile, be it Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, to private’,” he said.


“They’ve gone out on a Friday night, had a couple of drinks, put a couple of photos up and these people have seen it, and it’s held them back.

“They said the first thing you want to be doing is turning [the settings] to private.”

The 19-year-old’s Facebook setting was not private but he changed it that day.

social media checks
(Photo: Agung Parameswara/Getty)

Previously private information ‘harvested’ if posted publicly

It is not only private companies taking a close look at what you are doing online.

“I know for a fact that government departments do it as well, particularly the sensitive ones like the police, the fire department, [and others],” said Paul Harrigan, associate professor of marketing at the University of Western Australia’s business school.


“It’s publicly available information, which most people tend to not fully understand, so technically you don’t need a law to gather and harvest that information.”

That previously private information is now readily available in what is a competitive and overcrowded market place.

“We’re entering a period for the first time in history where there’s four generations in the workforce at the same time with the gen z, gen y, gen x and baby boomers,” Mr Kent said.

“For recruitment companies, it’s fairly standard practice to look at acceptable business social media such as LinkedIn.

“Employers more often are looking to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter so it is becoming pretty common practice.”

Physics and engineering science student Austin Shen is in the process of applying for jobs.

He does not think his social media profile, which includes Facebook, LinkedIn and Snapchat, will be much of a factor.

“I have [Facebook] on a private setting anyway, so normally if I don’t know the people and I’m not friends with them, they can’t see anything past my profile picture and my name,” he said.

social media checks
Photos like this should be set to private. (Photo: PYMCA/UIG/Getty Images)

“I do have some private photos on there but I think if it’s on a private setting, then it shouldn’t be accessible and all the posts shouldn’t be


accessible by people who I don’t really know.”

Changing skills required in job search

The impact of those photos and posts on social media should not be underestimated.

“It really is a culture-based assessment as opposed to a skills or personality-based assessment,” Mr Kent said.

“It’s a glance at who you are, and if that glance is coming before they’ve had a chance to meet you, take references and hear from others who you are, then you’re doing yourself an injustice before the process really gets under way.”

The level of scrutiny is upped once the interview stage is reached and there are a number of similar candidates.

“I would suspect it’s all about cultural fit – it needs to be that the values that the people are demonstrating and showing through their online profile, fits with what they’re looking for for their organisation,” Mr Kent said.


“If it’s a customer facing role involving sales or marketing, then obviously it’s important [they] portray themselves in a professional manner with their online profile.

“If a candidate is posting quite a lot of late night activity during the week, then that would probably be seen as not favourable.”

Dr Harrigan said companies spent a lot of time and money building their reputation and would also not tolerate certain other behaviour.

“Anything that would detract from their brand that they’ve spent a long time creating, so it depends on the company, but if it’s a charity that works with women, people wouldn’t want to see sexist comments, even light-hearted [comments],” he said.

“Any company wouldn’t like to see offensive material towards different races, even comments about the environment, littering, carbon footprint; all those sorts of things could create embarassment for you when you’re dealing with clients.”

Facebook makes it easy to manage your privacy settings (Photo: Facebook)

Companies do not, however, expect job applicants to never drink or be fun free zones, although drinking to excess and posting graphic photos are not the way to go.

“They’re lenient towards the behaviour but not towards the publication of it,” said Dr Harrigan.

“I think they expect people to be socially aware from a young age but you don’t need to publicise it, beyond your group of friends online, because it just shows a lack of awareness of the image you want to create.


“I think companies would [question that] – if they’re not aware to look after their reputation, will they be aware to look after our reputation?”

Job seekers can use social media to enhance prospects

A social media profile can also be used positively, Alex said.

“Any internships or competitions where I get to meet people I might be interested in working with or for, I add them on LinkedIn, and try and keep in contact with them,” he said.

“Facebook I use for volunteering – it’s a fantastic platform for promoting any of the causes.

“The thing about a resume, it’s not just numbers, it’s a bit more encompassing, you want to come across as a well-rounded person and try and do that by showing what you’re involved in.”

Alex also believes his generation, which records every element of their lives and puts it on social media, is aware of when to make it private.

“As soon as people start to put themselves out there, then that’s definitely one of the first thing that we do,” he said.

“Most people my age are very capable of altering their Facebook privacy settings and updating their LinkedIn profile so that it puts them in the best possible light to potential employers.”

Not all companies check out social media profiles, but it is becoming much more common and the advice is to be aware of what you post online and who gets to see it.

*Alex is a pseudonym.

This article was originally published by the ABC and has been republished with permission.