The myth of the social-savvy job seeker

2013

It's often taken for granted that Gen Y are surgically attached to their smartphones and that social media and mobile represent the future of recruitment. As a survey by Right Management found earlier this year, LinkedIn is now the dominant force in recruitment advertising, with print media all-but extinct and even the big-brand job boards seeing a decline in importance.

But is this stereotype of the "digital native" Gen Y job seeker accurate? A study published in Social Media in Human Resources Management (Advanced Series in Management, Volume 12), suggests not. In fact many of them continue to use traditional means of looking for a job because they are neither familiar or comfortable with using social media and technology to enhance their job search experience.

Co-authored by Laxmikant Manroop and Julia Richardson, the study argues that while they Gen Y uses various ways of connecting socially with friends and family, many do not understand the potential of these technologies to put them in touch with prospective employers.

The authors carried out in-depth interviews with 29 recent Canadian graduates who were looking for jobs, revealing that the factors holding them back include resistance to using social media for job hunting, a lack of knowledge about the job search features on social media sites, scepticism about its value and last but not least, concerns about privacy.

A lack of awareness about how to use social media for job hunting was a strong theme – even when it comes to LinkedIn, which makes great play of its usefulness as a recruitment tool.

According to one interviewee: "People tell me that they can find a job through LinkedIn and I'm just not sure how you're supposed to do that except looking at the job search positions or writing to someone saying: 'I'm looking for a job, if you know anything please contact me'. That's the only two things I can think of to do on LinkedIn. Other than that I don't know."

"I didn't actually think you could find or look for jobs through LinkedIn," another said, while a third observed that "I had known about LinkedIn before, but I thought it was another social media sites to connect with people. I had no idea that employers also go there as well."

Facebook, meanwhile, has a far greater credibility issue to contend with. "Facebook is not a job search tool in my mind", one interviewee said.

Many of those interviewed also expressed strong concern about potential privacy issues, so much so that several refused to create a profile or post a resume on social media sites. "There is always the issue of privacy and identity theft," one interviewee said, while another said "I don't want my whole history to be known by employers out there".

These concerns aside, the study's authors contend that Gen Y job seekers have a lack of understanding about what job searching entails in the real world or what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

"The majority of Generation Y job seekers are at a loss when it comes to applying modern technologies to enhance their professional life," the study concludes, and much more needs to be done to communicate to them how social media can be used to look for jobs.