Majority of small businesses use social media to screen job candidates

Job candidates realize that presenting themselves in the most favorable light on application materials and in interviews increases their odds of landing a position. To get a better idea of whether what you see is really what you’re going to get, employers traditionally have relied on talking to references and performing background checks. Increasingly, they also are turning to social media.

According to recent CareerBuilder research, 57 percent of small business employers use social networking sites to research potential job candidates. Of those, 45 percent have found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire a candidate. When asked about specific content that turned them off, employers cited the following:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs.
  • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs.
  • Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee.
  • Poor communication skills.
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.

On the other hand, 28 percent said they found information that caused them to hire a candidate, including:

  • Candidate’s background information supported job qualifications.
  • Candidate’s personality came across as good fit with company culture.
  • Candidate’s site conveyed a professional image.
  • Candidate had great communication skills.
  • Candidate was creative.

Knowing that potential employers often perform online “detective work,” savvy job seekers keep their image clean and their stories consistent. They also realize that employer probing offers an opportunity to showcase their skills, so they aim to give you something great to discover. This type of public professionalism bodes well for how the candidate will represent your company if hired.

Proceed with caution

Problems can arise, though, when employers attempt to dig too deeply into private lives. Several states already prohibit employers from “shoulder surfing” (requiring someone to access an account in front of you), requesting that applicants provide user names/passwords for social media accounts, or demanding to be “friended.”

Similarly, be aware that searching social media can reveal information about an applicant (such as religion or sexual orientation) that legally cannot be taken into account when making hiring decisions. To help keep such factors out of the equation, many companies assign someone other than the person actually making the hiring decision to be in charge of social media checks. This human resources rep or other designated staff member can examine the candidate’s online presence and compile relevant findings into a brief report that does not include info that could introduce bias.

Remember: Social media is a two-way street

Lastly, all employers should realize the two-way nature of the Internet in modern job hunting. Candidates frequently do their homework on a company and its leaders before applying, being interviewed, or accepting an offer. Be sure your own online presence makes a positive impression on viewers!


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