Is Social Stalking The Key To Interview Success?

Not so long ago, there was a glut of stories of interview woes. Magazines and television chat shows would discuss in sombre tones, the young man or woman whose budding career had been shattered by ill-considered social media posts. Whether throw-away, yet socially inappropriate comments, or one too many references to drunken nights out, squeamish employers were turning away in droves, thanks to the unprecedented access to candidate’s personal lives that the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were granting them.

‘Young people must learn to be more circumspect,’ commentators would say. ‘It’s bad enough that they’re doing these things; they don’t need to broadcast them too!’ conveniently forgetting that they were young once, and doing all of the things that they’re censuring now, they just didn’t have social media to record it all for posterity.

It took a couple of years for the message to sink in, but then students, first, followed by an increasing number of job hunters discovered their social media security settings, allowing them to post their antics for friends to view with impunity, while being safe in the knowledge that the 73% of employers who now search applicant’s SM accounts prior to interview would be none-the-wiser. But then something else began to happen – rather than just taking control of their own profiles, job hunters began to use social media to their own advantage.

We’ve been looking into this at Digimax, and while it won’t surprise anyone to learn that 68% of job hunters actively use social sites, such as LinkedIn, in their search for work, some of the other activities may well raise a few eyebrows, as the tables really seem to be turning.

While almost half (48%) of interviewees use social media for general interview prep, many go a lot further, with a quarter (24%) searching interviewer’s profiles to find common interests to ‘coincidentally’ discuss before or after the set questions: ‘Well, thanks for seeing me, I hope you have a good weekend – I’m off to see the Foo Fighters at the Brixton academy on Saturday, can’t wait… Oh really, you saw them at Cardiff? Incredible! I hope they play Walking After You… Yeah, absolutely, it’s a real classic…’ delivered with such innocence of expression that who could doubt it! Is there any real difference between proactivity and deviousness? Like it or loath it, you at least have to give them points for trying… And yet it still doesn’t stop there.

A little background digging is surely fair game, and a further 18% use social sites, such as LinkedIn, to check out their interviewer’s employment history, just to get a fair idea of who they’re dealing with. Fine. The truly dedicated, however, admit to what is now being termed as ‘social stalking’; the practice of systematically and regularly viewing every one of on interviewer’s social sites. Not content with their business profile, they’ll search for them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Tumblr, hoping to gain enough insight to leverage employment. And the practice is on the up, with 22% of job hunters admitting to participating – 61% of those are female.

While social stalking may sound a little creepy, employers must take some of the blame. Being comfortably settled with no intention of changing careers and – it must be acknowledged – a little less tech savvy, many more mature management personnel are failing to protect their digital profiles, with one in five (21%) saying that they can’t even remember the last time they checked or adjusted privacy settings on their social accounts. To them, social media is a tool for snooping on potential candidates – although today they largely (82%) seem to be interested in their candidate’s ability to correctly use grammar, or spell (59%), rather than how they spend their free time. It hasn’t occurred to them that the hunter might become the hunted.

When it comes to technology – all technology – the thing that we probably all need to remember is that it’s not a static thing. It evolves with us and different generations find different uses, so for now, for a short window of time before this generation of job hunters become the next generation of interviewers, social media stalking could be giving the canny candidate a leg up into their chosen career.

Is it underhanded? No more so than the employer has been in searching applicant’s profiles. Is it taking the initiative to get the career of your choice? At least it shows a pleasing degree of determination. Is it creepy? Well, that all depends on whether they continue once the interview is over with!

Shaz Memon is creative director at Digimax and Digimax Dental