With all of the clamor (“outrage”?) in recent years about employers using social media, or more precisely, posts on these media, to “screen” job candidates, you might expect that a lot of hiring companies have wised up and started backing off the practice. You would, however, be wrong, very wrong!
Employers’ use of social media, with particular attention paid to posts on various sites, to “screen” job candidates, a practice that began in earnest several years ago, actually is on the rise, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey. The survey by the job board giant was conducted in February and March 2014 by Harris Poll and sampled the opinions and attitudes of 2,138 hiring managers and Human Resources professionals and 3,022 adults employed in the private sector and across a variety of industries and companies.
Here are two of the key survey findings:
• Forty-three percent of employers said they now use social networking sites to research job candidates—up 39 percent over last year and up 36 percent over 2012.
• Although 12 percent of employers said they don’t now research candidates on social media, they said they plan to start the practice.
How can this possibly be? you might be asking. Why are companies continuing, and even escalating, this practice, which is so “unfair,” so unnecessarily “invasive” of a candidate’s personal life? Simple answer: Because they can! As long as the job market remains largely a “buyer’s market,” from the standpoint of the hiring companies—and it does!—employers will continue to do pretty much as they please. And, quite obviously, they are doing precisely that by using social media screening to further evaluate job candidates.
Not surprisingly, Facebook and Twitter are the sites most frequently used for potential employee screening. And, of course, it’s become almost a given that employers will “Google” virtually any and all candidates who come under serious consideration for a job. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 40 percent of employers said they routinely use search engines such as Google to “screen” potential candidates, which actually sounds kind of low to me.
I’m sure you’re already quite familiar with the potential harm social media posts can do to job candidates, and the survey cites some of the specific ways ill-advised posts can indeed take a candidate completely out of the running for a job.
Here are the Top 10 reasons hiring companies gave for passing on candidates, after screening them on social media sites:
• Provocative or inappropriate photos or other information (46%).
• Information (or photos) about a candidate’s alcohol and/or illegal drug use (41%).
• Bad-mouthing a previous (or current) employer or even a fellow employee (36%).
• Poor (or even, extremely poor) communication skills demonstrated (32%).
• Making discriminatory comments regarding race, gender, religion, etc. (28%).
• Lying about qualifications (25%).
• Sharing confidential information from previous (or current) employer (24%).
• Revealing a link to criminal behavior (22%).
• Use of an unprofessional “screen name” (21%).
• Lying about an absence from a current or former employer (13%).
Some Candidates Actually HELPED by Social Media ‘Screens’
But the news isn’t all bad when it comes to screening job candidates using social media, according to the survey. Some companies indicated that such screens actually swayed them more favorably toward some candidates. One-third of employers conducting such screens said they discovered content that made them more likely to hire a candidate. Even more astounding is the fact that about one-quarter (23%) said they found content that directly led them to hire certain candidates!
Here are the Top 10 reasons employers cited for getting “warm and fuzzy” feelings about certain candidates, based upon social media screening:
• Got a good (or better) feel for the candidate’s personality (46%).
• Candidate’s background supported his/her stated professional qualifications (45%).
• Candidate’s site projected a professional image (43%).
• Candidate apparently well-rounded, obviously had a wide range of interests (40%).
• Great communication skills (40%).
• Candidate obviously creative (36%).
• Number and type of awards and other accolades (31%).
• Great references posted about the candidate (30%).
• Interaction with hiring company’s social media presence (24%).
• Candidate had large number of followers/subscribers (14%).
Here is how Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, summarized the overall survey findings:
“It’s important for job seekers to remember that much of what they post to the Internet—and in some cases, what others post about them—can be found by potential employers, and that can affect their chances of getting hired down the road.
Job seekers need to stay vigilant, and pay attention to privacy updates from all of their social networking accounts so they know what information is out there for others to see.
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
So, if you care about protecting the personal and professional brand you have so carefully built and maintained over the years—and I am assuming that you do!—make sure your social media posts, as well as what others post about you, always exemplifies absolute professionalism!
This post is a modified excerpt from the next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets Series of Career Development/Management publications, Career Stalled? How to Get Your Career in HIGH Gear and Land the Job You Deserve—Your DREAM Job! by Skip Freeman. Publication is scheduled for early fall 2014.