After an almost-five-year hiatus from traditional job applications, I had my first contact with a recruitment agent today. It did not go well.
Because I’ve been freelancing the past few years, I usually get work through either old industry contacts, replying to random call-outs, or the good old cold call (or email, as it were) directing people to my website and trying not to sound too desperate for work. That can be cringe-worthy enough. But apparently, that’s nothing compared to going through a “virtual digital social media age” (actual quote) recruiter.
Recently I moved back to Australia after living in various places; so when I saw a locally-based contract job in my field, I responded to the posting. Admittedly, I’m a little rusty at the formal process stuff, but I have fond memories of friendly recruitment agents sitting down to find out what I want, listening intently, even offering a cup of tea and a biscuit while perusing my portfolio and discussing various possibilities above and beyond the role I’d actually applied for. OK, I made up the biscuit part but if there are any recruiters out there, please offer your candidates a biscuit, they’ll appreciate it.
Fast-forward to digital-social-media virtual recruiting. I received an email telling me to call this number at this time, and by the way add me on Facebook. I thought that was a bit odd, until I spoke with my sister-in-law. According to Forbes, ‘half of employers in the U.S. use the social network during their hiring process. Of those companies already using Facebook to engage with customers, 54 percent anticipate using it more heavily in their recruitment efforts in the future.’
Facebook has jumped on this by adding a ‘Social Jobs Partnership’ application, presumably to cut into LinkedIn’s share of the market. After some careful consideration, I decided to keep my Facebook for friends and family- after all, the reason I pay to keep a website is to keep my professional and personal endeavours somewhat separate (unless the two happen to intertwine).
I call the number at the designated time to arrange an interview (what happened to recruiters calling you, by the way?). It’s answered by a flustered recruiter who can’t remember who I am etc. etc. I offer to call back later; instead it turns into an over-the-phone interview (what, no biscuit?). I am not prepared for that. Even less so am I prepared to answer the ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ question (who resurrected that old chestnut?) and ‘name your favourite companies in the industry’ (Oh boy, that’s not the well-rehearsed Q&A session they are used to). I explain I want to keep my Facebook private, to which I receive a fairly irate shpeel about the importance of the social-digital-virtual-blah-blah so I say I’ll think about it. More questions which I fumble through with the grace of a rottweiler, and more prodding about Facebook.
Mashable.com says that in a European survey comparing Facebook and LinkedIn, less job candidates preferred connecting through Facebook because ‘Facebook is “not the right place” to interact with employers’. I agree. The question was brought up five times during our conversation, and I was getting the hint that it meant ‘add me or you’ve got no chance at this job’. Then there was a new tactic: “I just want to flick through your profile and photos to see what you do in your spare time”. Oh OK then, that makes me feel much better, person who I’ve never met. Please, do contemplate the cellulite on my thighs in that bikini from a trip to Thailand five years ago, I’m sure that will determine how qualified I am for this job.
Yes, I know I could set a restricted profile for work contacts. But I don’t want to. I want to keep my personal profile social, without having to sensor everything I put out there (especially considering how often ‘privacy policies’ on Facebook are changed, but that’s another story).
I’m concerned about the repercussions of allowing more opportunity for discrimination against potential employees based on whether the candidate’s family photo is up to scratch, or if they ‘like’ certain music, pages, or opinionated status updates. I don’t want to live in a world that forces me to create a perfectly marketable image. In the end, I settled for setting up a LinkedIn account to try and divert potential employers away from my Facebook profile. In the meantime, if all I’d have to do is send a few random emails and ask some stock questions while flicking through stalkbook, I think I should be looking into a new career as a recruiter.