Should Social Media be Used for Job Screening?

If someone checked your social media profile, would they get a good picture of you? Many of us would answer “no” to that question. Despite this, many employers automatically opt to use social media when screening applicants for a job opening. After all, viewing a social profile can give you a glimpse of a person’s unfiltered personality, rather than the scripted personality you might see at an interview. The problem, however, is that many photos, status, notices or message posts can lead you to jump to unsupported conclusions. In addition, it could expose you to religious, sexual orientation or health information that should not be considered in hiring decisions. No wonder there are strong debates about checking Facebook.

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Discover Their Voice

When I hire new employees, I consider not just job skills, but also the kind of behavior I want from persons representing my company. If they publicly voice negative opinions about past co-workers or employers, you might want to consider how they will speak about you in the future. It only takes one unhappy employee to tarnish the name of your company. Reviewing past social media posts is one way to discover your candidate’s voice.

In addition, your candidates’ posts can also reveal their written communication skills – or the absence of them. That talent can be more readily and realistically judged through their social posts by their offhand claims on a resume. It might be worth your time and trouble to check out, especially if at your company, most client-employee communications will be by email.

An Extended Resume

Interviews are only a brief introduction to a candidate’s interests and background. Photos and posts on social media profiles can give you a better, more reliable idea of their knowledge and experience.

For example, if you are hiring a chef, wouldn’t it be reassuring to see their Facebook posts showing photos of their creative dishes?

In 2012, about 37% of employers used Facebook in background checks. So Facebook is both an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about what a prospective hire is really like, and for a jobseeker to show employers hidden talents they might not be able to demonstrate fully during an interview.

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How Your Candidates Really Spends Their Free Time

Photos don’t always tell the entire story, but few photos are completely false. If your job seekers are tagged as drunk every weekend, you might want to question if they will be right for your jobs. You probably don’t want employees who regularly come to work hungover.



When You Know Too Much

When it comes to hiring, there is such a thing as knowing too much. Even if you don’t believe you would base a decision to hire or not to hire on such factors, it will be harder to defend against claims of job discrimination if the personnel file includes such protected information as:

  • Religious affiliation
  • Race or national origin
  • Disability status
  • Sexual orientation

Social media profiles can display that type of information in the “About” section. If you use social media for screening, candidates could claim the reason they weren’t hired was personal information you found there.

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Profile Hacker

At one point, most of us have logged into our social media profile and left it open for some time. It only takes a few moments for some mischievous friend to change your status or leave an embarrassing photo comment. People are also able to create fake social profiles in someone else’s name. So you can never know for sure if all of the information found in a social media entry was actually published by your candidate. The opportunity to hire someone who might have been a very good employee might could go down the drain because of their friend’s decision to write about their friend’s “secret desire to steal the baby penguins at the zoo…” or something similarly giving you a false idea of what the person is actually like.

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Privacy Settings

Social media networks provide you options for setting the level of security you want for your profile. Facebook allows you to choose your posts as visible by the “public,”, “friends” or private. Profiles also have a variety of visibility settings for other users who are not “friends.” Unfortunately, your candidates might apply different privacy settings. If you are using social media for screening, shouldn’t all your candidates be judged on the same type of information?

One option is “friending” all candidates, so they are aware you are accessing their profiles. You will have an equal opportunity to view posts, photos, and “about” information on each candidate’s profile.

On the other hand, suppose a candidate does not use social networks. As of July 2015, 91% of millennials used Facebook. Since you can learn a significant amount of private information over Facebook, you will have to decide if using the network for only some candidates is appropriate.

Social media profiles has never been a deciding factor for my hiring. I understand I will never fully understand the situation behind every photo or post. Despite the uncertainties inherent in social media, the pros and cons of a social media screening can be argued. A pattern of destructive photos might justify not hiring a candidate. On the other hand, it does provide a chance to see if a candidate presents himself or herself professionally. Before diving into social media screening, it’s worth being mindful of the candidates’ privacy rights and what you might really uncover.