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Professional… Partier? What Employers Are Finding Out About Candidates Via Social Media

A little too casual: Employers may be finding more than they bargained for when searching for candidate information on social media.Catching candidates in not-so PG Facebook poses, or Tweeting about their all-night bender?new CareerBuilder study shows that while social media can be a huge asset for candidates, it can also end up costing careless sharers the job. Forty-three percent of Inspector Gadget-esque hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they’ve found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year.

Social media scoping: It’s not going anywhere

Snooping, investigating, scoping out: Whatever you want to call it, it’s happening more than ever. The nationwide survey of more than 2,100 hiring managers and HR professionals found that nearly 2 in 5 companies (39 percent) use social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 37 percent last year.

The research suggests that hiring managers are using social media to get a glimpse at the candidate’s behavior and personality outside of the interview, and are most interested in professional presentation and determining how the candidate would fit with the company culture.

Social media: When it hurts a candidate

Employers who took a candidate out of the running for a job after researching him or her on social media sites reported finding a variety of concerning content — but what, exactly, did they find to make them stop in their tracks and “unlike” a candidate who initially seemed so promising?

  • Candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos or info: 50 percent
  • There was info about candidate drinking or using drugs: 48 percent
  • Candidate badmouthed previous employer: 33 percent
  • Candidate had poor communication skills: 30 percent
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, or other: 28 percent
  • Candidate lied about qualifications: 24 percent

Social media as a personal brand advantage

We know, however, that social media can also propel candidates from obscurity to “our next star employee” in a very short period of time. Some employers in our survey shared what they’ve encountered on social media sites that made a candidate more attractive or solidified the decision to extend a job offer. One in 5 hiring managers (19 percent) said they found something that has caused them to hire a candidate.

These hiring managers’ top mentions include:

  • Candidate conveyed a professional image: 57 percent
  • Hiring manager got a good feel for candidate’s personality: 50 percent
  • Candidate was well-rounded and showed a wide range of interests: 50 percent
  • Candidate’s background information supported professional qualifications: 49 percent
  • Candidate was creative: 46 percent
  • Candidate had great communication skills: 43 percent
  • Other people posted great references about the candidate – 38 percent

While the likelihood of employers to use social media to research candidates is only getting stronger, employers must also be smart about what exactly they’re seeking out and how they’re using that information:

“Employers are using all the tools available to them to assure they make the correct hiring decision, and the use of social media continues to grow,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “For job seekers it is essential to be aware of what information they’re making available to employers, and to manage their online image. At the same time, hiring managers and human resources departments must carefully consider how to use information obtained from social media and whether it is relevant to a candidate’s qualifications.”

Does your organization use social media to research candidates? If so, what are you normally looking for in your investigative quest — and has it helped you reach a better decision about candidates?


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.


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