Should Social Media Be Part of Your Screening Process?

Social media is being used by more employers than ever to screen job candidates, according to a 2017 Career Builder survey. The survey, which explored the use of social media as a screening tool during the recruitment process, found that 70% of employers in the U.S. use social media as part of their screening process. Survey respondents included more than 2,300 hiring managers and human resources professionals across a variety of industries.

Let’s say you’re a hiring manager and you’ve just made a job offer to a promising candidate. After extending the offer, you check the candidate’s Facebook page to find out more about your prospective employee. In addition to learning about the person’s work history, be prepared to find personal details about your candidate including political preference, religious beliefs, ethnicity, age, and even their health concerns. Under federal, state, and other laws, this information cannot be used to make an employment-based decision.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), it is much easier for a company to defend against a discrimination claim when it never had knowledge of the discriminatory behavior to begin with. The takeaway message? Once you learn this knowledge, it cannot be forgotten or dismissed.

More Survey Findings

According to the Career Builder survey, employers are checking online search engines in addition to social media. What’s more, in 2017, 69% used online search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing to research candidates, compared to 59% in 2016. Survey results also reported more than half of employers found social media content that made them decide not to hire a candidate. The survey results included the following reasons as rationale for not hiring a candidate.

On social media platforms, the candidate:

  • Posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or information: 39%
  • Posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 38%
  • Made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion: 32%
  • Spoke poorly of their previous company or fellow employee: 30%
  • Lied about his or her qualifications: 27%
  • Had poor communication skills: 27%
  • Was linked to criminal behavior: 26%
  • Shared confidential information from previous employers: 23%
  • Had an unprofessional screen name: 22%
  • Lied about an absence: 17%
  • Posted on social media too frequently: 17%


LinkedIn: Not Just a Recruiting Tool

LinkedIn is more than a networking and recruitment tool. It is often the first impression recruiters receive when looking for candidates. In addition to their work experience and education, a candidate’s profile can reveal a lot. You can find out which groups candidates are a member of, the influencers they follow, and see a snapshot of their connections. You can also see how long they stay in jobs, and how often they are unemployed.

Just as recruiters expect a candidate to have an updated, complete LinkedIn profile, it’s important to keep your own LinkedIn profile up to date. Job seekers are looking at LinkedIn as often as you, if not more. If you want to make a good first impression, keeping your profile current is a priority — especially if you’re actively recruiting.


Tweets Matter
Let’s not forget the importance of checking a candidate’s Twitter profile, if the information has been made public. The candidate’s photo should be a professional headshot, or at least one that’s in good taste.

According to an Annual Social Recruiting Survey, 93% of hiring managers will review a candidate’s social media profiles before making a recruitment decision. The survey also suggested that one of the worst things candidates can do on social media is make any references to illegal drugs. Another “avoid at all costs” activity is tweeting sexual posts or other topics recruiters would find offensive.

Finding Information: Is It Worth the Risk?
Although many companies may be tempted to check the social media accounts of job candidates, the practice is not without risk, according to some HR experts. For example, legal and risk departments of some corporations are reluctant to adopt social media screening, because the risk of accessing data can outweigh the potential information collected. One reason is that social media accounts include protected class information that employers don’t want to and shouldn’t know.

If you’re a hiring manager, be aware of the potential risks involved in using social media to screen your applicants. It’s critical that your company have a social media policy and that you provide social media compliance training to your employees. In addition to having a social media policy, be sure to make hiring decisions based on verifiably accurate information. Not all social media posts are accurate and truthful. If you use social media as part of your screening process, remember to use the same social media screening protocol for everyone, not just certain applicants.


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