Candidates’ Social Media History Gets More Scrutiny from Prospective Employers

Candidates’ Social Media History Gets More Scrutiny from Prospective Employers

In recent months, we have seen a series of controversies arise around the hiring of public figures in the media, sports, and entertainment industries after inflammatory comments they made on Twitter several years ago were brought to light. The Wall Street Journal explored the role of social media in recruiting through the lens of these stories earlier this month, noting that the vetting of candidates’ social media is increasingly common but still fairly new and less standardized than other forms of candidate screening.

Some of these controversies have led organizations to rescind job offers or terminate new hires on the basis of their old tweets, fueling extensive debate over whether these decisions chilled free speech, unfairly took people’s words out of context, or overreacted to flippant past remarks that did not necessarily reflect the person that candidate or new hire is today. In industries where talent has a public face, or in high-profile companies, employers are becoming more wary of what prospective hires have written on social media in the past, which anyone might dig up and use to damage their reputation and that of their employer.

In general, US companies are paying more attention to the social media histories of their prospective employees, not only in high-profile businesses like journalism and entertainment, according to a recent survey from CareerBuilder:

Seventy percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (on par with last year), while seven percent plan to start. And that review matters: Of those that do social research, 57 percent have found content that caused them not to hire candidates. …

Nearly half of employers (47 percent) say that if they can’t find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview – 28 percent say that is because they like to gather more information before calling in a candidate for an interview; 20 percent say they expect candidates to have an online presence.

According to employers who use social networking sites to research potential job candidates, what they’re looking for when researching candidates is:

  • Information that supports their qualifications for the job: 58 percent
  • If the candidate has a professional online persona: 50 percent
  • What other people are posting about the candidate: 34 percent
  • A reason not to hire the candidate: 22 percent …

Employers continue to monitor employees’ online presence even after they’re hired. Nearly half of employers (48 percent) say they use social networking sites to research current employees—10 percent do it daily. Further, a third of employers (34 percent) have found content online that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee.