Finances & Advice Navigating the job market in the age of social media

Navigating the job market in the age of social media

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In 2015, re-entering the workforce may seem daunting for baby boomers, given the constant evolution of social media and the role it plays in new hires. But, according to a few professionals, accepting the Internet age is necessary, but simple.

Suzanne Benoit, the director of human resources at Wright-Ryan Construction, and the principal of her own management consulting firm, said that while some boomers question the need to have a social media presence, it can’t hurt.

Benoit is also the social media vice president on the Human Resources Association of Southern Maine’s board of directors, and at 61, she’s also a boomer.

“What do I need to be on Twitter for?” she said, describing a common response during discussion on social media with fellow human resources professionals.

She said not only can Twitter assist with networking, but it can also provide simple help, like keeping you up to date with current news.

“It can be immensely helpful,” she said.

When searching for jobs, she said, boomers might first explore a company website, which she called an “old school” way to see what a company is doing.

“But, if they have a Twitter feed, you can see what they’re tweeting about,” she said, about the potential for boomers to conduct research into a potential employer. “You can learn a tremendous amount about a company.”

Benoit also mentioned LinkedIn as a popular way to network in the professional realm. The site boasts itself as the world’s largest professional network.

This isn’t to say boomers aren’t already using current technology. A 2012 study conducted by the Pew Research Center dispels the idea that boomers aren’t using the Internet or digital devices. The study found that 80 percent of boomers between 47-56 use the Internet, as do 75 percent between 57-65.

However, keeping up with the social media world may be the breaking point for some boomers.

As a human resources professional, Benoit says employers want to see that you are familiar with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“I’ve seen people say, ‘I don’t pay much attention to that stuff,’ and if it’s me, I’m going to dismiss them in my head right away,” she said.

The Human Resources Association of Southern Maine is a local chapter affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management. The chapter serves as a networking tool and offers professional development for HR employees.

Benoit said she pitched the idea of “social media VP” to the chapter, where she now hosts discussions on the topic. She still manages the chapter’s Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

Social media use can also depend on the job field. If someone is in the marketing realm, Benoit said, it’s a must. If someone is in construction, it might not matter as much, but Benoit said in all jobs, at least having an email address that is checked on a regular basis is important.

As social media continues to influence how jobs are found and applied for, the Internet can also help employers interview potential hires from afar.

In Westbrook, the Assistant City Administrator Bill Baker, who is a boomer, is on top of social media. He runs Twitter accounts for the city, and has also conducted job interviews via Skype.

In 2010, when Baker was still the city’s police chief, he conducted a Skype interview with Tim Gardiner, who is now a sergeant at the Westbrook Police Department.

Gardiner was originally hired in Westbrook in 1998, and then moved to Russia in 2006 to work with at-risk youth. In 2010, while traveling in Europe, he considered returning.

Gardiner said Baker was not afraid to work “outside the box.” In 2010, Skype was not as universally used, especially in the human resources realm, as it is now.

“After (Baker) reviewed my written application he set up a Skype interview with me and the Public Safety Commission,” he said. “I had returned to Russia so we did the interview via Skype while I was there.”

Gardiner said that during the interview, his signal wouldn’t support the two-way video call option, meaning the interview proceeded with the commission able to see him, but he couldn’t see anyone.

“This made the interview difficult for me because I rely heavily on non-verbal cues to anticipate questions or clarify my answers but I was unable to see them,” he said.

Nonetheless, Gardiner was hired. However, he believes that in the public safety field, “there is no replacement for face-to-face interviews.”

“I think that social media is a great way to advertise openings and perhaps collect some preliminary information from potential candidates, but soon thereafter the candidate has to present themselves. People can look quite different on paper than they do in person, both good and bad,” he said.

Benoit agrees. More recently, she conducted three job interviews over Skype, which she said had mixed results.

She says that in the current hiring environment, companies in Maine have to be able to attract workers from outside the state, but recruiting budgets are stretched thin, hence the reliance on free Internet video calling software like Skype.

“Are you going to fly somebody in that you haven’t screened by Skype? Probably not,” she said.

Benoit said two out of the three interviews were successful. However, as a human resources professional as well as a licensed clinical social worker, she said she’s “all about the people.”

“I could not tell by Skype how genuine the responses I was getting from one of the candidates, and they were hired, and it didn’t work out,” she said, stating that the candidate inflated their background.

In the end, she said, the interviews saved the company money by first vetting candidates.

Benoit revels in the opportunity to talk about the social media age, especially with fellow boomers.

“You might be annoyed by it, but we’re in it,” she said.

Andrew Rice is a staff writer at Current Pubishing.

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