Do Employers Actually Look at Your Social Media Profiles? What Do They Look For?

Do Employers Actually Look at Your Social Media Profiles? What Do They Look For?

By: Daniel Steingold | June 24, 2016

You can justify it in any number of ways. It was late, you had a few too many drinks, or you simply thought it was funny.

Unfortunately, that picture you were tagged in chugging down a beer, half-naked, while holding up an offensive gesture at a party is anything but funny to a prospective employer. At best, it will be forgotten or ignored; at worst, it will cost you the position.

Increasingly, employers check social media when screening job candidates. A 2015 study conducted by CareerBuilder found that 52 percent of employers use the internet to research employees, which was an increase from 2013 and 2014, which saw 39 and 43 percent of employers doing so, respectively.

A different study conducted by Jobvite in 2014 paints a more extreme picture: it showed that 93 percent of hiring managers review a candidate’s social profile prior to making a hiring decision. Disconcerting for many is the fact that 55 percent of these managers have reconsidered hiring a candidate because of something negative they discovered.

This post will highlight the findings of the two different aforementioned studies concerning social media use by both employees and employers, in the process examining how employers look at social media profiles, and what they look for.

Let’s Be Friends

In a social media landscape with private profiles that restrict access, many employers have taken the step of asking job candidates to be friends on social media, so that they can view information that is put off-limits.

The aforementioned 2015 CareerBuilder study found that 35 percent of employers that look at social media to screen candidates have sent friend requests to or followed candidates with private accounts.

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Interestingly, it is said that 20 percent of employers end up having their friend request declined by the prospective employee.

On sites that don’t alert one that someone has viewed their profile— think Facebook and Twitter, as opposed to LinkedIn— friend requests are also thought of from the employer’s perspective as an alert that the employer has viewed the candidate’s social profile.

What They Look For

Once an employer becomes friends with you on social media, they’re usually going to try to find pertinent information that they don’t see in your job application, resume, cover letter, or from references.

Contrary to popular belief, employers aren’t always looking for negative things on social media. A full sixty percent of respondents in the CareerBuilder study said that they were looking for information to help verify the candidate’s skills and qualifications, while an additional 56 percent wanted to see that the candidate knows how to conduct themselves professionally online.

A clear minority— 21 percent— expressed that they were looking for reasons not to hire a candidate.

Nevertheless, there are red flags to employers on social media that job seekers should never make evident during the interview process.

One should never post about illegal drugs on social media, as 83 percent of recruiters saw this as a major red flag. Posts of or about sexual content are also a big no-no with 70 percent of employers looking at this in a negative light.

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Engaging in profanity in general is generally unwise, along with talking excessively about politics and religion. Make sure you spell things correctly and use good grammar: 66 percent of hiring managers are believed to frown upon those who make simple communication mistakes on social media.

However, as mentioned, not everything posted on social media makes an employer less likely to hire an individual.

CareerBuilder’s survey found that 42 percent of recruiters view it favorably when a candidate’s background information on social media aligns well with what was provided during the interview process. 38 percent like to see that how a candidate behaves themselves on social media fits well with company culture, and an additional 38 percent like to see that the candidate’s profile has a professional presentation.

Finally, 37 percent of recruiters look favorably at candidates with excellent communication skills, and 36 percent want to see that a candidate is creative.

As for specific posts and actions, in 2015, Jobvite highlighted a couple of initiatives that can be taken on social media that are looked upon favorably by employers: 72 percent of recruiters liked seeing that a candidate participates in charity or volunteering, and 52 percent like to see appropriate and intelligent engagement with current events.

Which Networks Are They Most Likely to Use?

LinkedIn is by far the most commonly used social network to vet job seekers. According to Jobvite, 87 percent of recruiters say that they have hired through the network at one point. LinkedIn is used to not only find and contact candidates, but check their credentials prior to an interview.

55 percent of recruiters use Facebook, 47 percent use Twitter, and 38 percent use Glassdoor in the hiring process. These are only a small snapshot of some of the more popular networks used. (Surprisingly, three percent of recruiters even use Snapchat.)

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As far as how platforms are generally used, both Facebook and Twitter serve as a portal for employers to represent their brand to job seekers, while they also leverage the ability for current employees to refer their friends to the firm.

How Facebook and Twitter generally differ lies in the use of the platforms for vetting candidates. Facebook is used a lot more extensively to vet job candidates than Twitter.

Despite the widespread use of social media in job recruiting, many recruiters don’t feel as if they’ve done enough. In 2014, 73 percent of recruiters expressed plans to invest more in social media recruiting. Interestingly, only 18 percent of recruiters believe that their skills at social media recruiting are proficient or better.

Which Networks Can They Legally Look At?

On a final note, it is important to highlight the social media content that can be viewed by an employer.

Quite simply, any public social media profile or content can be used to evaluate a candidate during the interview process.

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With this being said, employers can be in violation of federal laws if they discriminate against you based on what appears on social media.

For example, if a male job applicant trying to get hired at a religious organization has a picture of him kissing another man on Facebook, he could have a valid legal case if certain discriminatory questions are asked during the hiring process— or perhaps even if he’s simply not hired.

So interviewers don’t appear biased, it is a generally-recommended— but often not followed— practice for them to not look at social media until an initial face-to-face interview has already been conducted.

In addition, for legal reasons, capturing screenshots of any questionable content on the part of the candidate is advisable for HR, along with formulating an objective system that ensures all candidates are vetted at the same point in the hiring process.

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