recruitment and graduate internet user skills

This week I overheard a discussion between a few financial professionals. They threw in their collective knowledge about sushi and Aberdeen, Scotland. Apparently there are no sushi bars in Aberdeen and those folks up in the very North East of our island are poor souls who have to travel down to London in order to get a bite of cold fish and rice. While they argued back and forth I googled it – turns out there are 7 sushi restaurants listed in Aberdeen. I had suspected no less but it left me puzzled that those folks with iPhones and internet access right in front of them rather resorted to making themselves look less than smart than simply checking it first and then telling others.

The same applies to recruitment processes I learned the other day. Understanding what sort of personality you are about to recruit is still based on relatively old-fashioned conversations, going through CV (resume, Lebenslauf) data, checking references – all a bit slow and ignorant of the possibilities we could harness. Senior executives in charge of making final decisions about recruitment of graduates still believe you need to sign up for Twitter in order to ‘read it’. There is a profound lack of skills in making use of the considerable amount of data many graduates provide on the net.

Accessible to anyone involved in the recruitment process and able to pull the strands together, it won’t need to be the images of drunk nights out on Facebook that are compromising. That might be the worst case scenario only. Someone briefing decision-makers would go and search for patterns in order to see whether the applicant may fit in beyond the bare facts and if so, to what degree. Questions that matter most when recruiting staff, which are not easily assessed in personal conversations, might be:

  • What sort of moods does the applicant reveal? Stable? Erratic?
  • What kind of friends or conversational partners does the applicant engage with? What’s the tone of these conversations? Any consumer forums or communities that show technical or social skills?
  • Any skills that match the CV or are perhaps not even mentioned – check Youtube, Flickr etc.
  • Does the applicant appear to ignore copyrights or infringe others’ rights?

Internet usage skills are complex and reveal a lot more about a person than many keep thinking. While typical assessment practices provide nothing more than a snapshot of an applicant on a day of all effort being made to look good, the internet research will provide a long-term profile that says a lot more about potential employees with regard to:

  • team working including group blogging and
  • feedback skills including taking in and learning from criticism
  • broader communication skills and
  • general networking, dealing with ‘spam contacts’ as well as
  • digital media ethics

That is potentially a lot more and a lot more of a holistic picture than we could ever be able to find out in conventional recruitment talks. Smart and skilled applicants will make sure they have privacy settings in place for personal conversations that will not be haunting them in these kind of situations. It’s a question of being in command of the social media you are using rather than being controlled by technology in non-desired ways. Employers and applicants – as well as old media – frequently seem to hold less differentiated views on this.

The very same applies to the applicant perspective, they are free – and should make use of it – to check their future employer and senior staff’s profiles. If there is no online identity searchable, not even a few hits that bring up names in relation to conferences or affiliations to professional bodies, this conveys an equally strong message.

After all, what we want, is making informed decisions. It’s not about sneaking into people’s personal lives and moralising about life styles as some may argue, rather, it is about finding suitable matches and making sure you won’t need to waste a few months in real [business] life together before the mismatch becomes all too evident.

In this sense, Eszter Hargittai’s ‘The Role of Expertise in Navigating Links of Influence’ is a great read. The essay is available as part of The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age (2008) by editors Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui.

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About Britta Bohlinger, CFE

Founder and Director of RisikoKlár in Iceland. Native German, global perspective - previously in London and Berlin.

9 responses to “recruitment and graduate internet user skills”

  1. Tanika says :

    Great post Britta – I guess there is some information hunting I can start engaging in right about now!

  2. britbohlinger says :

    Thanks Tanika, glad to hear that – hope the hunt is going to work out well for you.

  3. djan says :

    Hello Britta,
    I complained about the same points in my first post on my blog (lack of structure and clear outcomes). For me H808 is far away of what I have seen in other OU courses so far (H800 and H807) or other courses short!

    But I regret you are leaving. Sometimes students must survive our course whenever it doesn’t provide what is expected to attain deep learning approach.

    Will keep in touch with you via Twitter and Linkedin.

  4. Sacha says :

    A timely reminder that our digital identities increasingly will become important bedrocks of our working and personal communities of practice.

    Teaching responsible usage of online media ought to be added to school curricula.

  5. britbohlinger says :

    I agree, Sascha – but how do we make sure the same understanding of ‘responsible’ is embdded into curricula around the globe? Plus, what to do with home-schooled children, throse who drop out and those who are beyond educational age? I guess we are once more at the point formal versus informal learning.

  6. Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) says :

    This is a great reminder for undergrads about how to build on their strengths and to identify their weaknesses that can be improved via their online activities, to cultivate themselves for the career that they want.

  7. britbohlinger says :

    Thanks, Char – my intention was to make them see that they do also hold power in so far as they can both, shape their profile beyond nervous interview situation and indicate that they are aware of the potential web 2.0 hold for employers. We are having a wave on this – are you on Google Wave? Happy to send you an invite or just ping me on bbohlinger [at] googlewave [dot] com.

  8. Paul @ jobs london says :

    It may also be possible to ascertain what kind of a person they really are by looking them up on social networking sites, like facebook and the like. What do you think?

    • britbohlinger says :

      I agree, Paul – but the strategy may be of limited value in case the applicant (or employer’s member of staff) have put privacy settings at a high or max level (which might actually indicate they are aware of possible checks or Facebook’s habit to suggest 2nd or 3rd degree contacts).

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