With the pervasive, worldwide adoption of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, job seekers know that the all-important first impression is potentially made well before the first interview. But just how many hiring managers browse social media profiles, and what types of information are they hunting?
More than a third of companies (37 percent) polled use social networking sites to research job candidates, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. Of the employers who do not research candidates on social media, 15 percent said their company prohibits the practice. Eleven percent reported they do not currently use social media to screen, but plan to start doing so. According to the report, employers are primarily using Facebook (65 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) to research candidates; 16 percent use Twitter.
In a 2009 study of employers who conduct online background checks, 45 percent said they used social media to screen job candidates. This nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive from February 9 to March 2, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals across industries and company sizes. Hiring managers are using social media to evaluate candidates' character and personality outside the confines of the traditional interview process, with 65 percent saying they use the sites to see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally.
Fifty-one percent said they used the sites to see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture, while 54 percent looked for background information that supported professional qualifications. Forty-five percent sought to learn more about the candidate's qualifications, and 35 percent also looked to see if the candidate is well-rounded.
"Because social media is a dominant form of communication today, you can certainly learn a lot about a person by viewing their public, online personas," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "However, hiring managers and human resources departments have to make a careful, determined decision as to whether information found online is relevant to the candidates' qualifications for the job."
It might be helpful for employers, but is social media helping or hurting job candidates? A third (34 percent) of hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate. That content ranges from evidence of inappropriate behavior to information that contradicted their listed qualifications; 49 percent said the candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photos or information, 45 percent cited finding information about candidates drinking or using drugs and 35 percent discovered the candidate had poor communication skills.
"Job seekers should be mindful of what potential employers can learn about them online," Haefner said. "If you choose to leave social media content public, tailor the message to your advantage. Filter out anything that can tarnish your professional reputation and post communications, links and photos that portray you in the best possible light."