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Infographics > Social Media > Talent Acquisition

What Are Employers Discovering About Candidates Through Social Media?

Employers investigating candidates on social media

Recruiter 1: “So, how’s your Facebook investigation going?”
Recruiter 2: “Oh, you know — finding the usual: Some inappropriate photos, tons of really poor communication skills, misspellings across the board.
Recruiter 3: “Really? I’ve been all over Twitter, and I’m finding that most candidates are showing a ton of creativity in their tweets and have a have really wide range of interests that would fit in great with our company culture.”

No, I didn’t overhear this conversation at my local watering hole last night (I know, shocker!). Chances are you didn’t, either — but I’d be willing to bet more than a few of you are using social networking sites to research candidates, whether you’re looking to find the best people–or weed out the worst. How can I be so sure? Well, 37 percent of employers reported they’re using social networking sites to research job seekers’ every online move, according to a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals. But the motives for doing so are, just like job seekers’ reasons for using social media, extremely varied, and the number of employers and recruiters who admit they screen on social media versus those actually do is, I suspect, also quite different. Let’s take a closer look at what employers are looking for… and what they’re actually finding.


What kind of dirt are they digging up?

Though 12 percent of hiring managers say they’re using social media to find reasons not to hire a candidate, most say they’re trying to dig deeper than the traditional interview to find out:

  • Whether the candidate presents himself/herself professionally – 65 percent
  • If the candidate is a good fit for the company culture – 51 percent
  • More about the candidate’s qualifications – 45 percent
  • Whether the candidate is well-rounded – 35 percent

Who’s using social media recruiting most, and where?

  • IT is the industry using it the most, at a whopping 52 percent. The least? Health care, at 28 percent.
  • Employers are primarily using Facebook (65 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) to research candidates; 16 percent use Twitter.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, cautions employers not to get too cozy with candidates’ online personas:

“Because social media is a dominant form of communication today, you can certainly learn a lot about a person by viewing their public, online personas. However, hiring managers and human resources departments have to make a careful, determined decision as to whether information found online is relevant to the candidates’ qualifications for the job.”


Are job seekers their own worst enemy when it comes to social?

Job candidates are using social media — that’s obviously not something that’s going to change anytime soon. However, things aren’t looking so good for many of them when it comes to employment: a third (34 percent) of hiring managers who currently research candidates on social media said they’ve found information that’s caused them to stop short in their tracks and run the other way.

There is a great opportunity for job seekers to become more aware of the public information they’re putting out there for the world — and their potential future employer — to see, and to start taking control of the message and use it to their job-seeking advantage rather than their detriment. After all, this type of behavior or information has already cost many candidates a job.

34 percent of employers said the following social media discoveries led to a candidate not getting the gig:

  • Candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos/info – 49 percent
  • There was information about the candidate drinking or using drugs – 45 percent
  • Candidate had poor communication skills – 35 percent
  • Candidate bad mouthed previous employer – 33 percent
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, or other – 28 percent
  • Candidate lied about his or her qualifications – 22 percent

Getting employers to “Like” them

OK, OK, so many of you (ahem) may have found things that have caused you to shy away from hiring a candidate. And maybe you were looking for something to validate an opinion about a candidate you’d already formed. However, you likely don’t always use social media to screen candidates out: 29 percent of hiring managers said some discoveries have led to them extending a candidate an offer:

  • They got a good feel for candidate’s personality – 58 percent
  • Candidate conveyed a professional image –55 percent
  • Background information supported candidate’s professional qualifications – 54 percent
  • Candidate was well-rounded and showed a wide range of interests – 51 percent
  • Candidate had great communication skills – 49 percent
  • Candidate was creative – 44 percent
  • Other people posted great references about the candidate – 34 percent.

Again, this is a great opportunity for job seekers to tailor the message to their advantage, and it’s also great for employers, as they may actually be able to get a view into not only the strongest aspects of a candidate’s professional reputation but also their personality. As Haefner stresses to job seekers, “Filter out anything that can tarnish your professional reputation and post communications, links and photos that portray you in the best possible light.”

Employers and social media

Have you used social media to screen out a candidate, or to help give you the information you needed to make a hire? Share your story with us in the comments below.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.

“Because social media is a dominant form of communication today, you can certainly learn a lot about a person by viewing their public, online personas. However, hiring managers and human resources departments have to make a careful, determined decision as to whether information found online is relevant to the candidates’ qualifications for the job.”


Unfortunately this true. When one thinks about all the Us Department of Labor laws and EEOC guidelines that have been established for protected Classes, well they are no longer protected. If I don't want to hire the overwiegh, the black or Hispanic, the over 50, the gay, I can just Facebook/Linken and see who my applicant is. All the criteria that you are not allow to ask on an application or interview ..has gone down the drain due to social media. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the majority of Businesses are doing it ....but there are some who take full advantage of this...


For the majority, people don't post on Facebook hoping to advance their careers. Most of what I see is, well, SOCIAL! Folks having fun, poking fun, socializing. Go figure. However, if your profile & other info is out there for just anyone to see, you may want to rethink your privacy settings &/or beware of what you post. Linked In is a different story & should be handled like a public resume. Either way, people should always be careful of what they transmit into cyberspace. You never know who might take an interest in your information & once it's out there, you can't get it back.


Very interesting article for any job seekers.


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