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The era of the facebook faux par is over


Six years after the launch of the social networking giant, the job-seeking public has finally caught on to the fact employers check the social networking pages of their potential hires, according to five UK recruitment firms.

The recruitment firms who took part in the research, Laurence Simons, Marks Sattin, Greythorn, Ortus and EMR, say in the last year only 0.01% of candidates whose CVs impressed potential employers, failed to secure job opportunities due to questionable social networking profiles. This compares to 0.1% in 2006.

Paul Winchester, managing director of IT recruiter Greythorn says, “Six years ago, we saw the first social-networking slip-ups from candidates. They rose to a crescendo in 2006, when the use of sites like Facebook exploded - but people still hadn’t figured out quite how sensitive some of this information could be. Fortunately, the white-hot job market meant a lot of candidates who made these mistakes got away with it. Although employers deal with Facebook Faux Pas more harshly now, most people have wised up. The era of the recruitment Facebook Faux Pas is effectively over.”


Over the past year, only 3 out of 24,000 candidates whose CVs impressed future employers made Facebook Faux Pas. This compares to 23 out of 24,000 in 2006, when Facebook Faux Pas hit their peak. In each case, these blunders were made by candidates going for management consultancy and accountancy roles.

Dave Way, managing director of financial services recruiter Marks Sattin said, “Most people on the job market are now aware of the dangers posed by social networking websites. They know photographs that cast them in an unprofessional light should be made private – or deleted altogether. They know derogatory comments about their existing employer won’t go down well with their next boss. But less obvious things - like poor writing and grammar - can also raise red flags over a candidate’s name. Once an employer’s clocked something dodgy on a profile, they have to decide if they are willing to take a chance or not. Usually, the answer is no in a candidate rich market such as this. So the Facebook check has become the equivalent of a first interview. Once a potential employer has seen your CV, the next stage is to check the net. That’s the second hurdle candidates need to jump now.”

No marketing, PR, HR, IT, or legal candidates made similar mistakes.

Simon Bassett, managing director of marketing recruiter EMR said, “Marketing and communications professionals are all too aware of the power of social networking sites. And IT candidates obviously know the score there, too. Candidates for jobs in HR roles are used to sitting on the other side of the fence and lawyers are generally very risk averse. It’s only the accountants and the management consultants who make the slip-ups now. They’ve all got a profile, but not everyone’s got the right privacy settings on there.”

Yet Facebook doesn’t always have to be detrimental in recruitment situations. Used correctly, Facebook can highlight qualities or interests that might not come up in a job interview. As people seem to be learning, it’s about building a personal brand, not destroying it.

Stephen Menko, managing director of HR recruiter Ortus said, “Facebook is, by its very nature, a very effective way of keeping in touch with family and friends. Used correctly, it can also give a future employer a more ‘rounded view’ of yourself. But used incorrectly – i.e. not having the right privacy settings – well, you can insert your own inappropriately drunken nightmare scenario here.”

Although the era of the Facebook Faux-pas appears to be over, it may only be temporary. With Facebook’s privacy settings ever changing, candidates need to keep a close watch on what material is made public.

Menko adds, “Now, it’s mainly graduates straight out of university who are caught out. There was the case the other year where Oxford University refused to grant undergraduates a degree because of the YouTube coverage of their water fight in a cloistered quad. Now that could be the digital dictionary definition of regret.”


In late 2009, an American investment bank in London turned down an excellent candidate after checking his Facebook profile. His potential employer saw he’d joined a number of ‘inappropriate’ groups. As a result, he didn’t make it through for a second interview.

In the spring of 2010, a management consultant breezed through her first and second round interviews before a key decision-maker checked Facebook. Her profile picture showed her in fancy dress with a beard. The consultancy asked her to change the photo, which she promptly did. In the end, they offered her the job.

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