Employers - Are you Still Checking out Potential Candidate Backgrounds using Social Media?

Using Social Media Before HiringI am still wondering how we survived checking references of potential hires 10 years ago without LinkedIn and Facebook.  Today, with so much online information available at your fingertips, it is not surprising that some employers are trying to find out all information about someone before they hire them using social network sites.  Is this a good thing to do?

Why would an employer want to use social networks to check references anyway?  In a survey of HR professionals, the top 3 answers were:

  1. To find out more about the applicant.
  2. To compare information submitted (resume/references) to their online profiles.
  3. Curiosity.

The cost of a bad hire is the driving force in most companies these days to get the right person.  Employers are taking as many precautions as possible before hiring a candidate.  With easy access to social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, it really can be a make or break for a potential candidate who has a “digital footprint”  deemed unworthy by the person doing the reference check. Some think it is the same as a resume screener who will eliminate a candidate because of a typo.  What will that person do with that candidate’s pictures, videos, comments, religious beliefs and status updates they find on a social media site?   

In 2016, many applicants are now adding their Twitter, LinkedIn and in some cases snap chat handles to their resume.  Should you click?  Employers we have spoken to in a recent survey tell us they just don’t have the time.  In informal conversations with actual hiring managers however, they said that before the final interview they may take a look at that candidate's social profiles. 

So in 2016 with so much access, should you be checking candidate’s digital footprints before you interview or hire them?  My simple answer is no. To me, social media is social and should be left that way.  I base candidates on past performance as an indicator of future performance and the old fashioned resume and reference check combined with a background check (DMV, Criminal, and Education) usually does the trick.

Employers who have used social media to screen potential candidates told us they have made many mistakes.  Here are a few they shared:

  1. Screening the wrong person.
  2. Spending too much time trying to find the social profiles of potential candidates.  Too time consuming.
  3. After a few years of access to social profiles, 99% of the time any information found is never used.  In other words, a social profile has only sent a red flag 1% of the time. 
  4. Today, many employers have very clear social media policies that eliminate social media screening from the hiring process. (This doesn’t stop the manager who uses their personal phone to final interview social screening however.)

I have always told job seekers that if you can find a hiring manager at a company you want to work for who is active on Twitter, you hit a homerun.  Used correctly to communicate with the hiring manager, job seekers can at least get their resume noticed.  For employers, the value of discovering a potential candidate's Twitter account to help determine if they may be a good employee is almost worthless.  Not because of the information they may find but as we found out with an overwhelming response; screening with social media takes way too much time!


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