I remember in the great economic depression of the 1980s, after I came out from serving national service in the army, I was a school dropout with no tertiary institution to go to, and hungry looking for a job. Today, the recruitment scene is decidedly different. For one, I hardly see job applications in the mail as much, or at all.

I remembered those days in the 1980s, I was painstakingly looking through the recruitment pages of the newspapers everyday, and writing or typing on the manual typewriters, and mailing out those applications in neatly written envelopes and postage stamps. Out of the thousands of applications I might have sent, I would get a few callbacks, and a few interviews. Eventually, I was blessed to get a job with a quasi-government organization handling industrial lab testing, as a junior lab technician. I was paid S$525 (around US$400) a month. But I was elated I actually got a job.

Fast forward to today, and we see a complete transformation of how people would look for jobs. Using nothing but a few mouse clicks, an applicant can select jobs he wants, attach his formatted curriculum vitae (CV), upload it with his credentials and photograph, and then wait for shortlisting to come through email or the phone. If one happens to be looking for a job overseas, potential employers can even interview the applicant via videoconferencing.

Social media, for one, is another vehicle for employers and employees alike, to connect. For example, I have seen people looking for job opportunities on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Likewise, I have seen employers advertising job opportunities on the same platforms. I am unsure if such platforms have already eroded the territories of traditional mainstream print media or job portals yet, but at least social media platforms are likey to expand job connectivity.

While jobs may be advertised, and people may advertise their need for jobs, on social media platforms. It is also important to recognize what social media’s impact, and especially how that relate to a changing socio-psychological landscape of the emerging generation today.

In our days, we were rather private with our lives, and would prefer to only share those details with our families and close friends. Today, it is common to see younger people share every aspect of their lives, in text, in images, in motion video, etc. They would openly broadcast their joys and woes alike to the public via social media (which includes blogs).

As a HR practitioner, peers and I have noticed that while we sieve through applicants, we would be extra vigilant in discerning the suitability of such candidates today. Just decades ago, we would read through job applications and shortlist a few, interview and profile them, discuss with management, and then a couple more rounds of interviews, and hire a person.

Today, we would receive job applications through email by the hundreds or thousands (depending on type of job), sieve through the applications, shortlist a few, and then, before proceed to interview the applicants, go online to start our investigation. What do we look for?

For example, by looking for the public profiles of these applications, we would understand their social behavior towards others. We would understand their likes and dislikes, their aspirations, their dreams (however divorced from our own corporate needs may be), and so on. Are these candidates straightforward or not? Are they social or antisocial? Are they too sociable to the extent of neglecting mainstream life? Are they exhibiting potentially dangerous or disturbing behavior that would impede their work in a collaborative work environment, or even society in general? Do they simply spend too much time, sometimes every other minute, on social media, that would be disastrous to work productivity? These and many more questions, and answers, can be discerned just by studying public broadcasts of some people. Of course, these are not definitive answers, but they can raise valid questions that would demand solid answers before going forward. Conversely, if a candidate has no social media presence or no public presence or content, that may raise some other questions as well.

Applying for a job today is simpler and faster for the emerging generation, in so far as technology empowerment goes. One no longer needs to travel to every destination by public transport, sweat the weather, and get doors literally slammed in one’s face these days. However, it certainly means a great deal more work for recruiters and human resource managers, to figure out a much more complex socio-psychological landscape, on top of trying to handle the same HR work as before, in a much more compressed timeframe.

The true winners are those who are able to bridge and reduce the work for recruiters and HR managers, as well as their managers, deliver the results according to corporate goals, and genuinely smile and appreciate the job on their hands.