Do you have a MySpace Page? I don’t and I don’t have any real plans to have one. Not because I am against MySpace, not because I am trying to keep potential employers from learning about who I am – I just don’t have time to build another social community right now, but I might sometime soon. My 16 year old sister has a MySpace page. My 15 year old step-son has one. We have a witch in our town – she has one too (you can see it here), but that’s a whole other story.
I really support how MySpace has fostered an environment of self-expression and I totally support the undercurrent of a revolution that you feel every time you hear how many more users the site has. Ross Levinsohn, President of News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media unit (see his MySpace page here) recently said,
“Kids don’t have a way to express themselves, and that’s led to the rise of social networking…It’s all about getting them to interact and express themselves. We are starting to take a different mindset. We don’t want them to sit back and be passive.”
Right on. No More Boring Vanilla.
Sites like this are increasingly enabling people to develop their personal brand, but they are also being used as a window into what I am calling your ‘candidate brand’. We keep hearing the references to young adults missing out on job opportunities because of what recruiters are finding out about them on the internet. MySpace and other tools are being used to target and/or research job candidates. Unfortunely, recruiters are often shocked at what they find. It seems that one’s personal brand doesn’t always bolster their candidate brand. According to a recent article by Alan Finder in The New York Times,
“Many counselors have been urging students to review their pages on Facebook and other sites, removing photographs or text that might be inappropriate to show to their grandmother or potential employers. Counselors also encourage students to apply settings on Facebook that can significantly limit access to their pages.
But it is not clear whether many students are following the advice. “I think students have the view that Facebook is their space and that the adult world doesn’t know about it,” said Mark Smith, director of the career center at Washington University in St. Louis. “But the adult world is starting to come in.”
The adult world? Or the Real and Authentic World? The Canadian HeadHunter over at The Recruiting Animal in a post here liked Julian’s snippet from our recent project building a corporate recruitment blog:
“My favorite moment from blog training? When a recruiter explained that she didn’t see how she could possibly write on the company blog when all she’s done for the last year is tell her teenage son to avoid posting on blogs for fear of sexual predators. That was one question I didn’t anticipate.”
Do we as a culture really want companies, and thereby the employees that make them what they are, to be as vanilla and safe as your average gated community on a golf course? Is this what builds a great company? Are we too afraid that we will see something about their “lifestyle” that isn’t safe or vanilla? So much of our culture, especially corporate culture, is just devoid of any real character. Everyday it seems that there is an article or a post out there that points to how we need job candidates to only have “safe” representations of themselves on the web, we want safe and ‘professional’ blog content in order to have it be ad supported and we need corporate blog policies to keep ourselves from making an ass out of you and me.
But I digress….just like Employer Brands, Candidate brands should be built on truth. Employer Branding is not supposed to be about what you think job seekers want to hear – it’s about displaying the realities of your organization and getting to its essence. More and more the next generation of job seekers are willing to give that to us – their essence – their personal brand – but we are trying to squash them for it. Instead of trying to quell the revolution that is happening on social networking sites – employers should embrace it and participate openly in online communities to get out the company’s value proposition and message to connect with talented job candidates. Like it or not, it’s the *real* content on these user generated pages that is the gold.
From an article in The Economist:
“Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, two British academics, eschew the notion that effective bosses can be constructed piecemeal. Their implicit message is that bosses are born, or at least made before they delve into books on management. Rather than suggesting that high-quality leaders can be constructed from what they dismiss as an “amalgam of traits”, they stress that there are “no universal leadership characteristics”. The talent that the pair thinks most vital is “authenticity”.
After 25 years spent observing well-regarded chief executives and good managers further down the ladder, the authors conclude that those who are true to characteristics they already possess make the best bosses. Their message to the aspiring high-flyer is “be yourself”, have a lot of self-knowledge and be comfortable with who you are. Identikit executives hiding behind the latest management fad, ambitious role players, time-servers and office politicians may manage to creep to the top. But Messrs Jones and Goffee insist that those they seek to lead will soon find them out. Authenticity cannot be faked, they say, and a little eccentricity won’t hurt either. The authors approvingly cite Mr Branson’s casual style and endearing difference from the norm that his followers appreciate.”
Maybe Recruiters shouldn’t go looking for ‘dirt’ about candidates online unless they are willing to do that for their current employees – they might be surprised at what they find.