The Social Media Job Search Snitch
Your Boss May Know about Your Job Search Before You Finish Updating Your Résumé
You may be working and looking for a new job. Everybody does it. If you already have a job, there are many reasons NOT to let your employer know you are looking. On Frugal Guidance 2, we dedicated an entire series on how to engage in a Stealth Job Search.
But, with the introduction of Big Data firms selling sophisticated data to corporate HR departments, your boss may find out you are considering a new job before you even fill out an application!
This is not theoretical. It’s not a conspiracy theory. There are a some firms who specifically advertise that they can monitor your social media activity to see if you are actually looking for a job. It works, too.
The companies involved include two that work in the big data workspace, using worldwide data found on social media and job search sites, and specializing in services for corporate human resource departments.
The main focus of these services is to help companies find new employees. Another focus is to reduce downtime and expenses by making job searches more efficient, keeping potential employees in the pipeline, and letting management know which employees are quietly (or, maybe, not so quietly) planning to leave.
This is not a new idea. Managers have been watching their employees for signs they might be looking for a new job since, well, probably since some disgruntled pyramid builder in Egypt decided to try a different line of work.
In many companies today, IT monitors corporate phones, computers, portable devices, keystrokes, location software and video surveillance to follow employees’ activities. Employees have learned, sometimes the hard way, not to make a job search obvious.
Today, however, companies like Joberate and NetworkMonkey are advertising they can follow you around on the web, too. Using big data search services, they track and correlate info from social media, public job boards and data they buy from Twitter’s GNIP.
How does it work?
Joberate is quite open about how it works. A business that hires Joberate gives them the names of their employees. Joberate collects data about what they do online and what changes are made on their profile. It’s all public info, so it’s legal. (So they say.)
First, they decide what each person’s normal online activity is. Then they give it a proprietary J-Score®. Each person’s J-Score is different, ranging from little or no online activity to a very busy networking online social media maven.
Then, they monitor specific activities that the researchers equate with job search activities, such as:
- joining LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and connecting with job hunting sites,
- following recruiters,
- following companies other than their current employer,
- applying for jobs (that data point is pretty conclusive),
- creating new profiles with career-related content,
- collecting endorsements & recommendations,
- adding education or publications to online profiles,
- job-related Twitter activities,
- changing public / private status (when editing your LinkedIn profile),
- changing past positions,
- changing experience,
- joining new groups,
- rewriting your job title,
- replacing your photo,
- updating your education,
- and much more.
Some of these are pretty clearly aimed at LinkedIn. But don’t think that just because you’re not on LinkedIn, you can’t be monitored. The data is collected over time, too.
What the company looks for is a sudden rise in the employee’s J-Score. It’s not just the flunkees in the cubicle farm that are monitored. It can go all they way through the executive suite. In fact, companies can monitor their competitors and customers, too.
Joberate uses three not-very-complimentary titles to divide employees:
- Citizens – the highest loyalty level
- Tourists, and
Joberate’s web site clearly says, “J-index is a real-time predictive analytic that measures the percentage of companies’ employees considering new jobs outside of their current employer. It is a leading indicator of voluntary employee attrition, employee satisfaction and engagement, and is an integral predictive analytic of global employment sentiment.”
Joberate even claims to be able to predict, given a certain J-Score, how long it will take an individual employee to give notice.
How Your Employer Might Use the Data
There are several ways an HR department or hiring manager can use this data:
- They can interview the employee, ask why they are considering leaving, and offer a promotion and / or a change of salary, benefits or working conditions to entice you to stay.
- They can start the search process to identify potential new hires and begin the hiring process, even before you decide whether or not to leave the company.
- Put their head in the sand and do nothing. This is unlikely, though, if they are paying Joberate a lot of money to do the research over a long period of time. (They could, conceivably, have a control group, though.)
- Unstated, but obvious, is that the employer may start looking for ways to preemptively fire you, the “disloyal” or “migrant” employee. Or you might be withdrawn from consideration for a promotion or a sensitive assignment.
It’s not all about you, though. A business can also compare data for individual managers, compare departments, compare different international offices. They can gather specific, real data about different hiring policies and use real-time numbers instead of personal opinions in making their hiring decisions.
Joberate also publishes public list of the J-Index™ or J-Score average of Fortune 100 companies. This might be of interest to job hunters looking for jobs in the Fortune 100.
What data do they use?
Joberate mentions using their own data and analysis, as well as getting data from GNIP. This makes sense. GNIP is a social media data company founded in 2008. It served Twitter almost from the beginning and became known for filtering and processing the entire Twitter stream. Twitter finally bought the company in 2014.
GNIP’s products include Firehose (a telling name), which directly gathers data on “every public activity from social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress,” as well as Foursquare, and Disqus. They also use public API access to Facebook, Google+ , Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, bitly, Delicious, Flickr, Vimeo, Stackoverflow, Photobucket, and lesser known sources, like VK, Panoramio, Metacafe and intensedebate. (Curiously, they don’t list LinkedIn on their website.) Their website claims that they process 15 billion bits of data every day.
I’ll bet you’ve used several of those services. I use over ten of them.
A similar service is provided by NetworkMonkey. Although their primary service is using predictive analysis to find new employees, they make no bones about a secondary service:
“Network Monkey boosts a company’s retention capabilities by monitoring the social profiles of the company’s employees and alerting management when any employees are starting to look for a new job.”
Where Joberate works mostly with Fortune 100 companies, NetworkMonkey will work with any company with over 200 employees.
You’re Caught in a Conundrum
You’re in a bit of a Catch-22.
If you are contemplating a stealth job search, you can’t stop the flow of public data about yourself.
You can’t do a comprehensive job search without using job sites and social media these days.
But you can’t do a stealth job search if you’re showing you’re active in a job search.
If you do a public job search while working, it could lead to a firing or, at least, the loss of a promotion or tension or rumors in the office.
So What Can You Do?
Dawn Rasmussen, a leader in résumé services and blogger, probably has the best solution in her LinkedIn article, “Big Data is Watching Your Job Search” (link below).
Her solution is brilliant in its simplicity.
Simply, before and during your job search, keep your social media activity high. In other words, get a high J-Score from Joberate (or similar scores from other services) and keep it.
This means stay busy online. Engage in networking. Accept other people’s invitations. Talk in groups. Be active. Network. Also, talk up your employer with your colleagues. Every corporation wants their employees to say good things about them online.
Why does this help? For the person who is inactive online, a sudden burst of activity on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and on job search sites is a dead giveaway that you are looking for a new job – even if you do nothing at work to indicate it. That doesn’t take a big data organization to figure out. Any manager could tell.
But, if you are always busy online, it may take longer for your J-Score to pop upwards. Since Joberate isn’t telling how they create their score, though, we can’t tell with certaintly which activities are the ones setting off alarms. In the months and years to come, they will certainly refine their formulas, too.
You can also keep your search secret by doing more of your networking and job hunting off-line. Go to conferences and live networking events. Talk on the phone (use your private phone, not the company phone). Take training courses. Join professional societies and attend meetings. Even promote your company (if you can in good conscience).
Also, do your job. Do it well. Learn how to do it better. Ask your boss about expanding your responsibilities.
So, when the digital sirens do go off, you can answer honestly, “Yes, I was curious about opportunities in my field and looked at some job descriptions, talked to a recruiter and even, on a lark, took an interview. And you know what I found? I found I like this company and its people better and I’m happy here. I’ve done a good job and improved my value to the company. So, do you want to fire me or give me a raise?”
To Learn More
On Frugal Guidance 2
Other Sources of Info
Joberate’s website has lots of info, but you have to click on various links and menus to find it all. (The specific pages have been rewritten since this article was first published, but nothing in the basics has changed.)
The Network Monkey website appears to not be working any more.
Dawn Rasmussen’s LinkedIn article Big Data is Watching Your Job Search
Hudson’s Job Seeker Pulse for Q1 2015, United States which uses Joberate’s J-Index™.
Title photo is “Male Looking Through Binoculars” courtesy of “Stockimages” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Lady Looking [Up] Through Binoculars courtesy of “Imagemajestic” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net
[Blonde] Woman Looking Through Binoculars, courtesy of “Imagemajestic” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
[Second] Male Looking Through Binoculars, courtesy of “Imagemajestic” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Male Executive Peers Through Binoculars, courtesy of “Stockimages” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
All photos were processed from color images by using Photoshop and Topaz Black&White filters.
This article was updated on October 9, 2017, with a few content changes and design updates.