Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories examining social technology use on the central Kenai Peninsula.
By Jenny Neyman
As technology continues to worm its way further into today’s society, the resulting mash-up has ever-expanding consequences for social interactions, education, politics and professional life.
These days, finding a job in “real life” requires at least some involvement online, whether it’s searching for openings, filling out electronic applications or just noting a contact e-mail address. Woe and unemployment be to those who don’t realize the power and pitfalls their online presence can have over their work prospects.
“Once you make that transition, you’re in your senior year of college or actively job hunting, you need to rethink your online information that’s out there, on Myspace or Facebook, your e-mail address, your cell phone and voice mail. You need to start changing your image, not so much as a college kid but as a professional who wants a job, especially in this economy. Anything you can do to give yourself an advantage, you need to think about,” said Kelsey Ciufo, human resources recruitment specialist for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
KPBSD is the largest employer on the peninsula, and processes about 5,000 applications for employment each year, Ciufo said. These days, the process is carried out online. Job openings are posted online, the application is filled out online, resumes and other supporting documents are uploaded and submitted electronically. Even reference checks are conducted electronically, with applicants submitting e-mail addresses for their references, and the district inviting the references to fill out a confidential online survey about the applicant.
In a district as spread out as KPBSD, covering 25,600 square miles, and dealing with so many applicants, both in the district, in Alaska and Outside, having an online application process has greatly facilitated efficiency, Ciufo said.
“It cuts down on time for everyone. They’re not having to come in and get a paper application and come back to turn it in, or mail it to us or fax it in. We don’t have to store all the paper applications. It’s better tracking — we can see when a person created an application and updated it. And principals who aren’t in the central area don’t have to drive all the way in to look at files. They’ve got view access wherever they are,” she said.
The system also allows for a wider pool of applicants, she said. In the paper days, someone may learn of an opening the final day of the application period and there wouldn’t be time to request an application, fill it out and submit it by the deadline.
“Now if they see a job in the morning and it closes at 5 p.m. it’s definitely possible to get their information in time,” she said.
Most major companies and school districts are using online application programs, Ciufo said. KPBSD is the first school district in the state to use the AppliTrack program, which is now used by Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and several smaller districts, she said. The program also is linked to education employment networks Outside, so a teacher that had applied for a job in Illinois, for example, could forward the same application to a district in Alaska and just update information specific to that position.
But for all the benefits the Internet brings to employment, there are some major pitfalls when applicants fail to treat their job search efforts online with the same professionalism they would in person.
When online media is used primarily for social interaction, such as personal e-mail accounts and social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace, job hunters don’t always realize that different standards are necessary for using the Internet for professional purposes.
“It’s incredibly important. You have to think of it as an application. Even though they’re online, you still need to use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. It’s not an e-mail where you can abbreviate things or not capitalize or not pay attention to grammar,” Ciufo said. “I find it more with people who aren’t familiar with the online application systems. They don’t capitalize, or they use all capital letters when filling out online applications. They don’t use any punctuation or don’t spell-check. It’s like they’re writing an e-mail to a friend, when you should treat it like you would a normal, written application.”
Whoever is doing the hiring may have different thresholds for how many errors they will tolerate in an application, but chances are, especially for jobs in education, there won’t be much grace granted.
“Some principals look through applications and give maybe two mistakes. After that they won’t even look at an application anymore. They can’t get past that you didn’t take the time to spell-check or use correct punctuation. You could be best teacher in the world but they won’t know it from your application,” she said. Continue reading