This article was first published in the November/December 2013 China edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
If you happen to update your online profile, don’t be surprised if out of the blue an executive recruiter contacts you.
‘When you change your profile on LinkedIn, it usually says, “I’m starting to market myself,” explains Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays, a headhunting firm with offices in 33 countries. ‘If we can know that, as you’re thinking it, then we can start to present opportunities just at that point when you’re starting to think about what’s out there.’
Welcome to the changing world of executive recruitment. I recently interviewed Cox, who is spearheading Hays’ drive to incorporate social media into his company’s processes. Last year, he signed an agreement with LinkedIn to link its database with those of the social media company, which has more than 260 million members worldwide, mostly in the US and Europe.
Admittedly, things are slower in Asia. ‘There are about three-quarters of a million members in Hong Kong and a bit more than a million in Singapore,’ notes Cox. China has 1.5 million LinkedIn members – tiny in a country with 550 million internet users. Takeup is also slow in Japan, but improvement is expected now that Japanese is a supported language.
But social media is gathering strength even in Asia. Just as it is changing the way recruitment companies work, so is it also altering the way finance professionals are interacting with would-be employers. The less savvy may be at a disadvantage.
I asked Cox what finance professionals can do to make sure they are not hurt in this evolving world. ‘My advice would be, be careful how you use social media,’ he says. ‘Do use it, but be absolutely honest because people check.
‘Make sure that your own online brand matches your offline brand,’ he continues. ‘If there are variances between the two, that raises a question mark.’ So if you say you are a chartered accountant qualified in a certain country, it is easier today to check that this is indeed the case. Professional institutes publish and regularly update their membership roster on the internet.
Finance professionals must not forget that whatever they write on social media is out there for everyone to see – and can potentially stay out there forever. The chances are high that a coworker, your direct manager, a classmate or a competitor will call you out on any misrepresentation. They can easily write: ‘That’s not your title.’ ‘You’ve never led that project.’ ‘You weren’t responsible for the outcome of that initiative.’
‘It could be a genuine mistake,’ Cox allows. At Hays, consultants are told to discuss inconsistencies with the job candidate: ‘“There’s a mismatch here between your CV and your LinkedIn profile. What do you have to say about it?” Some would-be employers may not bother to check, however, so it is much better to make sure there are no inconsistencies.’
What about the résumé? ‘The CV may be morphing into something that’s a bit more of a LinkedIn profile,’ Cox says. ‘But the CV is still important. There’s more data in there, there’s more detail. Your mobile phone number is not on LinkedIn, for example.’
He also stresses the importance of references. ‘References are still very important, particularly references from your previous boss.’ LinkedIn has features that allow a member to write a recommendation or endorse another member for a particular skill or attribute. However, these are not as useful as references, says Cox.
That’s because ‘a referee knows that person,’ he continues. ‘They’ve worked with them. They’ll have views on their technical skills and their softer skills. Are they punctual? Are they articulate? Can they present well? Are they clear thinking? Do they fit well within the team?’
In other words, even in the age of social media, some virtues remain unchanged – integrity and accurate representation of skills and achievements among them.
Cesar Bacani is editor-in-chief of CFO Innovation