Industry Market Trends

Employers Lean on Social Media for Hiring

May 24, 2012

Companies are increasingly relying on social media profiles to research job candidates, and many of their hiring decisions are now based on what they find online. What specific types of information are they looking for and how will this affect a job seeker's chances?

High unemployment levels in the wake of the economic downturn have made the job market extremely competitive. Today's candidates are using every tool available to them to obtain a position, including social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. As a result, employers are increasingly looking at job seekers' social media profiles to determine whether they are a good fit for a job.

According to a recent survey, 37 percent of companies use social networking sites to research job candidates, while an additional 11 percent said they are planning to start. Among employers who conduct background checks, 45 percent said they tap into social media to screen applicants. The most popular platforms employers use to research candidates are Facebook (65 percent), LinkedIn (63 percent) and Twitter (16 percent).

The results are based on responses from more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals working across industries and company sizes.

"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," Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said. "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."

So what are hiring managers looking for on social media? Although 12 percent say they are trying to spot reasons not to hire someone, the majority are attempting to dig deeper than a traditional interview would. For example, 65 percent are checking to see if applicants present themselves professionally, 51 percent want to find out whether someone is a good fit for the company's culture, 45 percent are trying to learn more about a candidate's qualifications and 35 percent are simply checking to see if the candidate is well-rounded.

Negative information on social media can hurt a candidate's chances, as 34 percent of hiring managers said they have found information online that has caused them not to hire an applicant. Forty-nine percent cited inappropriate photos or information, 35 percent cited poor communication skills and 22 percent cited exaggerations or lies about the candidate's qualifications.

On the other hand, a social media presence can also be invaluable for connecting talented job seekers with employers. In many cases, social networking can provide an opportunity to secure an interview with a potential employer.

"Recruiters can't talk to every candidate that might deserve a chance. What's more, the logistics of scheduling phone and interviews are cumbersome enough that long shots tend to be systematically ignored. But it takes almost no time to browse through chat boards, expert-answer sites or Facebook pages, looking for potential candidates with verve. Candidates should set up their social-media presences with an eye to what recruiters might want to know about them," Harvard Business Review recommends. "That early edge can translate into plenty of chances to make a winning first impression via phone or in-person contact."

In particular, harnessing LinkedIn to your advantage can be a major step toward securing a job or finding a candidate to fill a crucial position. Other social networking sites, especially Facebook, require careful curation to ensure that a candidate's personal life does not drastically contradict his or her professional demeanor.

"Always follow the old saying about not posting anything that would make you embarrassed if it were published on the front page of a newspaper," cautions. "Don't use Facebook as a forum to vent on everything you hate about life, your job, someone else or a company - talk to a friend in person if you feel the need to vent."