Mother always said, “Don’t be nosy.” But in an era of voluminous information about people that’s so easy to find, recruiters and hiring managers would be remiss if they didn’t at least take a peek. Social media gives you more information about a person than a resume and interview. It’s not about being invasive, it’s about making better hires.
Many people think social media snooping is bad form. No one wants a total stranger creeping through their vacation photos or reading about how they spent last Friday night. But social media screening isn’t just for identifying people you don’t want to hire. On a much higher level, it’s for finding the people who stand out as potentially a great addition to the company roster.
It’s a Growing Trend
According to Matt Tarpy at CareerBuilder’s Hiring Site, more than half of employers already use social media to check out prospective employees. “Reviewing a candidate’s social media presence may soon become standard operating procedure,” he says. And the number is growing at a quick pace. Nearly 40 percent of employers used social media in 2013, but that number jumped to 52 percent in 2015.
Some employers take it to the next level, too. Instead of poking around on the sly, they make the extra effort to request a social media connection on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even other sites such as Pinterest. That not only sends the signal that an employer is interested, it opens up access to a lot more information than would be available without the connection. Just remember that users can tweak privacy settings for individual connections, at least on Facebook. And that’s not a bad thing.
Social Media Screening Works Both Ways
Social media screening helps employers find candidates with all the right stuff and avoid those who aren’t in the company’s best interest. Tarpy says that 32 percent of employers have found reasons to extend a job offer to a candidate. The person’s background, personality, professionalism, communication skills, and creativity were giveaways. But keep in mind that while you’re screening them, they’re also screening you. At least if they’re savvy.
Social media isn’t a one-way street. Candidates can check out what customers and employees have to say about you. And if you put a lockdown on that type of interaction, they’re likely to respond the same way that you would when running up against a “none shall pass” barrier. You might elect to avoid candidates who have a negative social media presence. And they might also elect to avoid a company with disgruntled employees and customers and companies who have a too-shiny social media face.
Set Realistic Expectations
Social media should be one part of a more comprehensive candidate screening strategy. Of course, you wouldn’t hire someone whose social media presence is overwhelmingly poor. But no one is perfect. And many people cultivate an online presence that’s not 100 percent accurate anyway. Michael J Formica MS, MA, EdM writes for Psychology Today that social media “introduces false intimacy and social distance.” People often present a side of themselves that’s not entirely real in an effort to be perceived a certain way.
Although social media gives you an in for better screening, remember that it’s not a window into a candidate’s reality. It’s just one more way to measure suitability. You might see negative traits that make you decline to carry the pursuit any further. But you might also see a side of a candidate that isn’t real. Photos aren’t the only thing that people retouch before posting them for friends and acquaintances to see online.
Social media isn’t a magic device; it’s just a tool. And while a lot of people frown on using it for candidate screening, the current definitely flows in that direction. Maybe it’s because social media is such a part of everyday life now. Or maybe it’s because ignoring something that’s so readily available doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Whatever the reason, the majority of employers use it to learn more about the people who might one day get a job offer. Candidates use it in their own screening process, too. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just one more way to help the right employers and job candidates find each other.
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