Build your public profile because it is your persona as far as headhunters are concerned.

When Facebook opened to the public in 2006, little did we realise that every information box we filled, every status we updated and every photo we uploaded might come back to haunt us one day.

With social media playing a large part in people’s lives, human resource personnel and recruiters are taking into account potential employees’ online personas.

Edwin Sudhakar, Asia Hiring Head, Virtusa, says, “It (social media profile) is very important as it helps us know the candidates personally. Also, it holds a chance of converting passive job seekers into active ones and keeps them updated on the company’s activities.”

“While analysing a person’s profile, we look not only at their posts and employment status, but also the kind of pages they follow and the groups they belong to,” he says. While he hasn’t yet rejected a candidate’s application based on their social media activities, Edwin does not rule out the possibility of doing so.

Talent showcased

Founder and Design Entrepreneur of Open Designs, Shrikrishna Tangatur, looks for creative professionals whether it be for designing, online marketing or social media management which his firm deals in. “In a way, it helps us find people who portray their creativity online. Their passion is revealed through their profile,” he says.

Shrikrishna says that anyone looking to be part of a creative team in any field must be connected with emerging trends and technologies. “They should take the opportunity to ensure that their creative skills, transparency, attitude towards self development and organisational development is reflected on their social media profiles,” he adds.

However, he disagrees with the notion that a person’s social media post could cost them their job. “What employees post on social networking sites is purely personal, as long as they don’t involve official matters in the forum. But if they had landed themselves into some kind of legal issue because of their posts, then we may have to take a decision based on the act and its implications for the organisation’s reputation,” he says.

Gauging candidates

Having gained 15 years experience in the HR industry in both IT and not-for-profit sectors, Augustine Chelliah says that the content of the candidate’s social media profile is a critical factor in getting them through the initial filtering process. “I have rejected some people when the information provided in their profile contradicts facts stated during the interview or screening process,” he says.

Augustine also says that the candidates’ passion towards work, networking skills and technical competence can also be gauged. He says, “This importance of the profile, to a large extent, depends on the nature of the post for which we are hiring, since networking and relationship skills are imperative for positions involving client interfacing responsibilities.”

But do students realise the importance of maintaining their online profiles when they join the job hunt? D. Aswin Shanmuga Priyan, an MBA graduate says, “It’s quite useful; alumni from my college post [annoucements about] job offers and openings in their companies on Facebook. If we apply through these contacts, they get a chance to check out our profile. It is important to make sure the profile reflects something positive.”

Yet, he admits that he has not been too mindful of what he posts on Facebook or Twitter and finds LinkedIn “boring.”

Raj Srirangam, a mechanical engineering graduate, agrees. “Some of my classmates feel that it’s safer not to put any public posts and they lock their profiles. I think it's better to be honest to the potential employer. It acts as a vote of confidence in your favour for they will have a better understanding of your personality,” he says. Divya Ramachandran, who has completed her B.Tech in information technology, says that she mostly posts about her hobbies and uploads photos of family and friends.

“I haven’t cleaned up my social media profile, but I did start a new account since I’m looking for a job, although I feel that it shouldn’t matter to my employer what I choose to post from my personal account,” she says.

Perhaps it’s time that students woke up to the reality that whether they like it or not their “personal” profiles do have an impact on how they are perceived professionally.

(With inputs from Ashmi K.J)