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Dear keyboard warriors, your future employer is watching

Social media posts of candidates, be it personal or professional, are now the first on the list for scrutiny by prospective employers.

July 24, 2021 / 09:10 AM IST

"I will definitely not take the COVID-19 vaccine no matter what. Will not let our body get injected with unknown chemicals". This was a tweet by 25-year-old Trisha Gupta on May 1, the day when India opened up COVID-19 vaccination to every citizen above the age of 18 years. Gupta had almost forgotten about this tweet but was promptly reminded of it during her job interview on May 24.

"The first question the interview panel asked me was the reasons behind this tweet. They also wanted to know my views on unvaccinated staff being barred entry into workplaces. I was dumbfounded because I didn't realise that this would be noticed," says Gupta who had applied to multiple companies for a software analyst role.

While her job application process is still under review, Gupta realised that she couldn't get away with tweeting anything in future.

'Keyboard warriors' is a term used to refer to highly-opinionated individuals who speak their minds online on social media. Nothing wrong with it, except that companies are now taking notice.

The very first thing that is being scrutinised by the hiring managers at Indian workplaces is whether the candidate is active on social media; if yes, what do they post about.

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Personal posts about daily life including life updates or views about celebrities/films/television shows are largely ignored. However, posts badmouthing individuals or organisations are taken note of.

For instance, you have have quit an employer on a bitter note or could have been treated unfairly. There is a thin line between what is acceptable and what isn't. Increasingly, recruiters prefer employment issues to be handled offline one-on-one or legally rather than on social media.

This is especially true of sensitive cases like sexual harassment or caste-based discrimination at workplaces. On one hand, posting about it online will help draw wider attention to the matter but may also turn away job offers.

Recruiters say that at the core of it, what corporates are looking for is whether the candidate shows signs of irrational and/or violent behaviour, racism, casteism, misogyny, religious animosity and views towards LGBTQ community.

Your personal views may not lead to a job rejection but be prepared to answer tough questions.

Digital marketing professional Senthil Kumar often posted on his Facebook timeline about the wage gap being a myth and how women were given an unfair advantage at workplaces.

Ironically, his interviewer for a similar position at a fintech firm was a woman. And, the first question was about this post and on what basis he had formed this opinion.

"I was eventually hired for the job but I was quizzed thoroughly about my social media posts. During the interview, the interviewer presented data from various companies to show that the wage gap among genders wasn't a myth. I just posted something without putting much thought but I guess these things are being noticed by recruiters," he said.

Kumar case was not of a serious nature and only pointed to a lack of awareness on this matter.

But, explicit messages with obscene content and/or open call for violence against a group, persons would land you in trouble. While you could be booked under cyber laws for online harassment, it could also cost a job.

Recruitment managers are cognizant of the fact that there is a risk of the brand reputation getting hampered if candidates with past history of online hatred and trolling are hired.

Even liking or retweeting such views would prove costly, as Danica D'Costa realised.

"I had liked and retweeted a series of tweets which included caricatures of some prominent politicians. I took it as a joke but the prospective employer wasn't convinced that it was satire," said D'Costa.

While the company where she interviewed for a financial analyst told her that she wasn't qualified enough for the profile, D'Costa says that she met all the requirements and the sole reason for rejection is her social media views.

In a vibrant democracy, share of views online is part and parcel of the system. But with changing dynamics about social media content and allied regulations, employers want to err on the side of caution.
M Saraswathy is a business journalist with 10 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, she covers consumer durables, insurance, education and human resources beat for Moneycontrol.
first published: Jul 24, 2021 09:10 am

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