How important are the web and social networks in a job search? The 2019 Work Trends Study highlights the role of personal branding and online reputation.

This article was originally published by Morning FUTURE here.


In the era of information overload, black mirrors as extensions of our identities and personal data as the new oil – to quote the popular adage favoured by the Anglo-American entrepreneur and writer Andrew Keen – it was inevitable that the labour market would also be impacted by the ‘always on’ syndrome and by social networks. It’s a continually developing revolution, bringing with it new skills and expertise. But at the same time, it requires a greater understanding of the limits and opportunities that the web offers to both job seekers and to those who are looking to hire.


Adecco Italy’s 2019 Work Trends Study, compiled in collaboration with the Università Cattolica in Milan and presented during a Wired Trends 2020 event, provides a fascinating snapshot of the changes taking place. It reveals how the web and social media are playing an increasingly important role both in the search for a job and for candidates and how this is inextricably linked to creating an effective, consistent online reputation.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

For this 5th edition of the Study, 1,466 candidates and 259 recruiters were interviewed across Italy with an even distribution in terms of age and gender (42.6% in the 18 to 35 age group, 37.5% between the ages of 36 and 50 and 19.9% aged 51 to 65; 51.1% female and 48.9% male). It examines three macro areas: Social Recruiting, Personal Branding and the weight and importance of passive candidates.


Social Recruiting


We spend more and more time online, so inevitably that is where we find work or new jobs. On average candidates spend 72% of their job search time online. For their part, recruiters use 45.1% of their time looking for potential candidates – a percentage that is forecast to rise to 55.7% within a year. This figure closely relates to others: there is the perception that online research requires lower financial investment (70.2%), less time (58.1%) but more investment in technical skills (48.6%) compared to the classic offline search.


“On average candidates spend 72% of their job search time online.

For their part, recruiters use 45.1% of their time looking for potential candidates.”


Candidates use websites (85%) more than social media (33%) and indeed have a negative opinion of how effective they actually are. It seems paradoxical (but it is not) if we think that just 45% of those who browsed through company websites received a job offer by email, while this figure falls to 12% for those who used social media platforms. What’s more, just 3.2% of those candidates got a job, a smaller number than 4 years ago. On the other hand, other channels like the old but ever popular word of mouth (the most powerful marketing tool of our times!) did the job for 57% of those interviewed.


In such a landscape, the digital world becomes more like a shop window where candidates and recruiters can put themselves on display, a place where they can build their reputations and market themselves. The extensions of our personalities are to be found there – in a Facebook post or in an Instagram selfie – it’s just that we are not often aware of this.


Which social media?


LinkedIn remains the most popular for job searches: 58% of candidates choose it. Growing numbers are also using Facebook (from 27% to 32% in 4 years) and Instagram (10%), overtaking Twitter, a platform that has been plodding along behind the relentless wave of developments made by its competitors.


If we take a look at the Human Resources sector, while LinkedIn and Facebook are still among the most used social media, compared to 2015 they are significantly less popular, falling from 88% to 74% for the professional platform and from 28% to 14% for the Menlo Park-based social media group. However, the 3.0 tool kit now used by recruiters also includes Instagram, the king of visual marketing.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

While candidates see social media simply as an additional way to look for job ads (61% of those interviewed), to make applications (52.3%) or to look for company pages (50.1%), for recruiters these platforms are a kind of litmus test revealing the true personality of job seekers, a way to measure their reliability and, therefore, reputation.


Personal branding

A photo at the seaside with your back to the camera, Monday morning posts on Facebook, spiteful comments on a Tweet – these all tell the real story of who we are and how we see things, revealing our identities to an audience that could be of any quality or size.


Yet very few people stop to think about how important their web reputation is. It’s a fact that 55% of candidates believe that the image that emerges of them on social media does not represent their true personality. On the other hand, 72% of recruiters consider personal profiles to be a true reflection of a more complex reality, which, it can be said, is even more accurate than a static tailor-made CV. So much so that 44% of recruiters admit they have rejected candidates after having checked out their social media profiles – even though their CVs were solid. Inappropriate photos and personality traits which do not match the role applied for, are the main reasons why candidates are ruled out.


“44% of recruiters admit they have rejected candidates after having checked out their social media profiles –

even though their CVs were solid. Inappropriate photos and personality traits

which do not match the role applied for, are the main reasons why candidates are ruled out.”


This is why each and every candidate should develop their very own long-term marketing strategy: they should start seeing themselves as a brand that needs to be promoted on a very complex and highly competitive marketplace. Personal branding means telling a unique, personal story showing our best sides and curating this valuable narrative over time – not just when we are looking for a job but even when we are passive candidates.


The attraction of passive candidates

Passive candidates are those who are not actively applying for jobs and are instead sought after by headhunters. They are a veritable treasure trove for companies who are willing to invest time in searching for them and who are ready to offer the candidate a higher salary in their recruitment proposal. This is because, when compared to active candidates, they have better hard skills (30.9%) and more work experience (36.1%) though they score lower on motivation (7.2%) and soft skills (13.4%).


Social media profiles are truly strategic outposts for recruiters who successfully leverage them to contact (76.3%), identify (69%) and recruit (67%) candidates.


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