How Hiring Managers Use Social Media to Screen Job Candidates

In a 2011 Reppler survey about how recruiters use social networks to screen candidates, 91% of the respondents claimed they have visited a potential candidate’s profile on a social network as part of the screening process. But why? With all the tweets, status updates and comments, it’s unavoidable for any social job seeker not to be searchable in some way.

To learn more about why recruiters and hiring managers screen job candidates online, I talked to a few social media and recruiting experts.

Why Do Recruiters and Hiring Managers Care?
With social media, it’s possible to learn a lot more about a candidate than what’s on their resume.

“Businesses and recruiters want to know as much as they can about a person who they may give a job offer,” says Eric Meyer, partner in the labor and employment group at Dilworth Paxson LLP and author of The Employer Handbook. “But the real purpose behind screening is to make sure the person you’re hiring doesn’t have any red flags that would make them a bad fit or a potential liability for the business.”

According to the survey, 69% of the respondents have rejected a candidate based on content found on his or her social networking profile. At the same time 68% have actually hired someone. Of those, 39% did it because whatever they found “gave a positive impression of the candidate’s personality and organizational fit.”

“In terms of mindset and outlook on life, people use their social networks and their blogs to really express themselves,” says Rachel Dotson, content manager for ZipRecruiter. “If you see someone consistently posting negative things and it’s apparent they have a poor outlook on life, that’s the kind of thing that’s going to give us a lot of pause. One toxic employee can ruin an entire department or organization, depending on its size.”

When it comes to commenting, posting photos or sharing status updates, we don’t typically update our social media profiles with recruiters in mind. Instead, we post things that are relevant to our lives, interests and personalities, giving recruiters a clearer picture of the person behind the resume.

Tips for Job Seekers
For recruiters and hiring managers who choose to look up candidates online, it’s likely that what they find will also shape their first impression of that person.

“Perception is reality in the business world,” says Amy Henderson, account executive with Technisource, part of Randstad Technologies . “The way people perceive you online, through social media–that’s what they use to make first impressions. And those first impressions are lasting impressions.”

And even with privacy restrictions set up on social networking sites like Facebook, it doesn’t mean an employer won’t take extra steps to get a look at what’s behind those privacy restrictions, even if that means bluntly asking a job candidate for his or her login information.

But by requiring login credentials for candidates’ social media profiles, employers run the risk of losing top talent due to a perceived lack of trust.

“Employers run the risk that if they require job candidates to relinquish Facebook logins and passwords as a condition of employment, those candidates will respond by removing their names from consideration,” Meyer says. “At the moment the company requests that private information, it projects a lack of trust, which is a bad building block for an employer-employee relationship.”

What other best practices should social job seekers consider for maintaining their social reputation online?

~ The career blog welcomes this guest post written by Jennifer King. Jennifer is an HR Analyst at Software Advice, a company that reviews and compares recruiting and employee appraisal software. She reports on trends, best practices and technology in human resources. You can read Jennifer’s full article on the Internet persona and screening job candidates online on her HR blog.

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