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Employers Using Social Networking Sites to Screen Job Candidates

December 15, 2010 by NCSF 0 comments

Social networking websites have grown into a dominant cultural phenomenon. In addition to providing a modern social structure that caters to the tech-savvy, instant gratification pursuits of today’s consumers sites such as Facebook and Twitter now extend their reach of influence into the business, professional, and political sectors. There has been a great deal of statistical analysis on the potential ramifications of these social networking sites (and other ‘quick-hit’ forms of socialization such as texting) on professional reputation. Numerous articles have been written to address the negative impact of social networks on interpersonal communications, productivity in the workplace, and the risk of developing ‘social-site addiction’ that can affect the ability to fulfill daily tasks and even function properly in non-leisure environments.

A relatively new trend regarding social networking sites is their use in behavior monitoring during the screening process for new hires and sometimes on-going employment. Employers have commonly conducted online background checks – particularly for job candidates who specialize in technology and sensitive information; such as in the fields of Information Technology (63% of employers) or Professional and Business Services (53% of employers). Now more than ever, employers are reviewing social network sites to help them distinguish if job candidates are a good fit for the position they apply for and reflect the business’ image. As a vivid example of this, a survey of over 2,600 hiring managers implemented by CareerBuilder in 2009 showed that 45% of employers regularly use social networking sites as a component of the screening process, with another 11% claiming they plan to follow suit in the near future. Of the employers who claim to conduct online searches of job candidates, 29% use Facebook, 26% use LinkedIn, 21% use MySpace, 11% scan blogs, and 7% currently follow Twitter.

Job seekers should be conscientious of the content they post on social networking sites and other online locations. According to the survey by CareerBuilder, 35% of employers declared to have reviewed content on social networking sites which caused them to disregard a job candidate for employment. Employers also claimed to disregard candidates for using an emoticon such as a smiley face (14%) or text language such as LOL (laugh out loud) in an email or on a job application. Examples of social site content that hiring managers’ state will influence them to take a job candidate off of the ‘potential hire’ list include:

On the other hand, taking into considering the frequent use of social networking sites in the screening process, potential employees could use this trend to their advantage by showcasing their skills and experience on components of their profile that is open to the public. According to the aforementioned survey, 18% of employers reported that they have found content on social networking sites that actually influenced them to hire the candidate. A few examples of positive influences claimed by hiring managers included the following:

Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, appropriately summarizes the take-home message related to this current trend with the statement, “Social networking is a great way to make connections with potential job opportunities and promote your personal brand across the internet. Make sure you are using this resource to your advantage by conveying a professional image and underscoring your qualifications.” Haefner recommends job candidates to:

Considering the apparent screening trends with social networking sites it is prudent to state that all individuals currently seeking a job should at least perform a quick clean-up of their online profiles. Human psychology reveals that many people will remember a single provocative tidbit of personal life discovered (potentially viewed on a social site) over a long list of prestigious credentials on paper. In today’s technology-driven society, a person’s digital representation is becoming an imperative component of their image to potential employers.


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