HR Headaches: With social media, things aren’t always what they seem

Most people see social media as a means of connecting to other people and being “transparent” to those outside their immediate circle. Especially in the business world, this can be shallow and naïve.

For job seekers, social media is a means of cultivating and projecting an image that highlights skills and benefits for a prospective employer. For the employer, seeking applicants who follow those guidelines can help find good candidates and expedite the selection process.

Where this becomes difficult for both parties is the issue of past termination. But past terminations need not be a dead end for future jobs or, for the employer, future hiring.

For job seekers, it’s never appropriate to mention that you were laid off or that you are currently not employed. There is no need to broadcast that information. When people say they are looking for a job, the impression is that they are hurting or depressed. For most people, what we do is who we are. If we are unemployed, then we are nobody. People always go toward the negative when they hear that another is unemployed.

For job seekers, the fact that you are between positions should come out only, if at all, after you have an offer and discussions about start dates and notice periods occur. Use social media to work for, not against, you.

Employers should look for those who promote themselves in a positive and strong manner. If you learn that the person you are considering was terminated, know that it might have been a good thing for both the applicant and the previous employer. It might simply have been a bad match in a number of ways that do not reflect on the applicant’s ability to work well within your company. You’ve gotten this far with the applicant for a reason—don’t automatically assume the applicant will make a poor employee. Try to find the cause behind the termination and see if it is relevant to the position or your company’s culture.

When the economy really starts to turn around, those who will benefit from new jobs will, I predict, be the ones who already have jobs. It is human nature to seek something or someone that is already possessed by someone else. It is unfortunate, but I think true, that the unemployed will be second in line for the new jobs. Those still employed will be perceived as the best employees because they survived the massive layoffs of the recession.

This is yet another reason for the unemployed to use social media to highlight their abilities and not their pasts. Meet with the prospective employer so those past experiences can be discussed in person and to avoid falling victim to social media assumptions. Once you’re in the door, focus on what you can do for the company.

For you employers out there, don’t miss out on a potentially good match for your company if you find someone has been terminated. Use social media to identify potential employees that show themselves to be strong and qualified, and then be aware that if you find they have indeed been terminated, it‘s not necessarily a bad thing. If you believe the applicant can deliver value and make your company money, it might just override elements in their past.

 Steve Cohen is president/partner of Labor Management Advisory Group Inc., and HR Solutions: On-Call. He has more than 35 years of specialized experience solving HR problems in companies of all sizes. He recently wrote “Mess Management: Lessons from a Corporate Hit Man.” He’ll be providing insight on HR topics every month exclusively for KCBCentral.