The growing importance of using social media for job seeking in South Africa

Analysis in brief | Social media is becoming increasingly necessary in the job seeking process in South Africa, as competitiveness in the job market grows.

The transformation of South African recruitment Infographic courtesy Patrick Traynor, LinkedIn https://www.slideshare.net/linkedineurope/the-transformation-of-south-african-recruitment-patrick-traynor

Key points

  • Social media platforms are useful in job-seeking, not just the career-focused platforms such as LinkedIn
  • Many employers access personal information online from social media platforms and use this as a screening process for potential employees
  • Social media can be used to one’s advantage when looking for employment if managed correctly

With the expansion of online networking, South African companies are using social media to market and advertise their businesses, as well as to screen prospective employees. Social media platforms which incorporate websites and applications that enable users to create and share content and participate in social networking, are beneficial to the job-seeking process. Networking on social media platforms plays an important role in linking 21st century job-seekers to potential employers by enhancing a candidate’s profile. The various platforms are categorised according to their uses. Facebook and LinkedIn are part of the social networking category, while Twitter is part of the micro bloggers, and Instagram falls under photo sharing.


From job-seeker to interviewee

 In South Africa, users have increased across the different social media platforms. Facebook witnessed an 8% increase in 2016 to a total of 13 million users, while Instagram saw the biggest increase at 133% from 1.1 million to 2.68 million users in the same year. With social media becoming increasingly accessible through the use of mobile devices, time spent on social media platforms has also increased to an average of 2 hours and 43 minutes per person per day.

Apart from their social uses, various social media platforms can also be used as employment tools, as they provide an opportunity for online networking. Online networking sites also offer job-seekers a chance to learn about and connect with companies they are interested in and hear about vacancies directly. Social media has allowed the gap between job-seeker and employee to become smaller as the various platforms allow employers to have a view of candidates beyond their curriculum vitae. More than one third of all employers use social media in their hiring process in order to screen candidates beyond their résumés. This is done by providing them with an opportunity to use social media to gauge how a prospective employee would present themselves in a more informal situation. An example of this would be the pictures uploaded to a photo sharing platform such as Instagram.


Employer’s online screening process

Over 60% of employers who screen candidates using social media platforms, do so in order to determine if the job-seeker presents themselves in a professional manner. About half of them want to know if the candidate will fit in well with the company culture, and 45% want to learn more about their qualifications. While most employers do not specifically look for negative posts, nearly half of them have stated that they have found information on social media that has given them reason to not interview the candidate. Key reasons for this include provocative or inappropriate photographs, evidence of drinking or drug use, discriminatory comments, evidence of negative comments about previous employees, and poor communication skills.


Social media as an advantage

If managed correctly, the risk that using social media presents the user, is worth it. More than 40% of employers are less likely to interview job candidates if they are unable to find information about the person online, so deleting all accounts is not an option for job-seekers. Social media can be used to the job seeker’s advantage if carefully utilised. As the most popular career-focused platform, LinkedIn should be a top priority for all candidates. It is important to remain active on this platform and to connect with important players in one’s industry in order to expand one’s social networks. Twitter is the most conversational platform available and can directly impact on an employer’s perception of a candidate based on who the job-seeker engages with. Facebook can be used to convey a positive image of the candidate, as well as the candidate’s personality if any inappropriate content is removed or privacy controls implemented. Certain levels of privacy should be maintained through privacy settings, but employment information, location, and skills and interests should be made public. In order to persuade an employer to interview a candidate, a job seeker should build a strong social network and online profiles on the various platforms. Contributing to social networking communities, participating in relevant group discussions and sharing expertise will also be beneficial.


Online networking will continue to assist job-seekers

It is necessary for candidates to use social media as it not only shows that they are up-to-date with the latest technology, but it also provides them with a way to communicate with their colleagues, expand their professional network, convey their personalities beyond a résumé and expose themselves to potential job vacancies or other career opportunities. Exposing oneself in the correct manner on social media platforms will contribute to a candidate securing a job interview, consequently improving their chances of being hired. Content that should be available to create a professional image on social media platforms should include background employment information, hobbies and interests, and the candidate’s personality and good communication skills should be conveyed through posts and comments one has made. This will assist in differentiating oneself from other candidates and provide the employer a sense of identity that cannot be conveyed in a résumé or curriculum vitae.