Recruiting and Staffing

Social Media Screening: Here’s How to Use it in Your Hiring Decisions

Social-Media-Background-Screening

You’ve probably had friends whom you wished would stop using Facebook or Twitter for just five minutes.

After all, who needs to see 12 new pictures of someone’s dog every hour, or hear about how so and so’s love life is still on the rocks? A hiring and staffing manager who’s trying to make hiring decisions, that’s who.

People use social networks to share snippets of their personal lives with friends and family, but hiring and staffing departments also view the material. According to CareerBuilder, 37 percent of companies use social networks to research job candidates, and 12 percent of businesses use the websites to look for reasons not to hire someone.

It’s all about making the right distinctions

Would the woman who wears a skimpy outfit on Facebook dress in a way that’s too risqué on Casual Friday? Does the guy who criticizes his boss on Twitter have a legitimate beef, or is he the office troublemaker?

Some companies don’t care to know – a little slice of raw humanity from someone’s social media life is all it takes to make them toss out a resume faster than The New Yorker rejects a poetry submission.

But that’s not how it should go.

When hiring and staffing departments use social media screening as a tool for employee selection, they should have strategies for distinguishing between candidates who occasionally post questionable content and applicants who could pose a real problem in the workplace.

Tips for using social media screening right

Here are some tips for making the distinction:

  • Consider comment responses. When someone tweets a message like “Everyone can jump off a cliff and die,” he usually gets one of two responses: people seem concerned and ask him what’s wrong, or they act like he’s being himself and tweet a response like “chill, dude.” If you’d rather not hire a verbal hit man, avoid people whose friends indicate that they’re acting normal when they blow up – but give the person who occasionally speaks his or her mind a break.
  • Count photos. A candidate seems perfect, but then you delve into his Facebook photos and see him drinking liquor. Yes, it’s the hard stuff, but ask yourself this: is it just a photo of the man holding a glass of scotch at a cigar bar, or does it look like he tipples at every dive in the city? If it’s just a single photo, be careful not to overreact.
  • Be fair about social associations. Say that one of your applicants likes Motley Crüe’s Facebook page. Does that mean that he likes to “Shout at the Devil” and thinks of women as “Girls, Girls, Girls?” Likely not. He’s probably just a fan of ’80s glam rock. If he likes skinhead punk bands, on the other hand, there’s a good chance that more than musical taste is at play. When you evaluate someone’s social associations, try to be skeptical without being morally judgmental.

Social media sites are useful screening tools for the employee selection process, but hiring and staffing managers should be careful how they use social content to make hiring decisions.

While some types of content can indicate that an applicant would be a bad hire, other kinds are just evidence of the free-spirited behavior that hardworking people have always engaged in. Those things shouldn’t stop anyone from getting a job.

How does your company use social networks to make social hiring decisions?

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.

Don Charlton is a Web entrepreneur, developer and speaker. His company, TheResumator.com,, helps employers hire with confidence. Contact him at don@theresumator.com.
  • ur mom

    Bottom Line: Don’t use social medai

  • http://twitter.com/HRwhale Timothy Koirtyohann

    There is nothing inherently wrong or illegal about using SM to review a candidate’s background. However, given the compliance exposures it might be helpful to at least allude to them.

  • http://twitter.com/Sarangbrahme Sarang Brahme

    On the other side I would say, why to restrict on to facebook / twitter? We can always research about candidates on their blogs, discussion forums and other places where it matters the most. Aren’t these places more relevant to us to understand their knowledge sharing, expertise and professional traits than creeping in their facebook windows to see what are they upto in their personal lives?

  • http://www.facebook.com/allison.a.kruse Allison A Kruse

    Very interesting article! What is written online is written in ink, so everyone should be mindful of what they say, because recruiters and sourcers who are good at what they do can review this content (like it or not). Thanks for sharing.