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How Social Media Changed the Hiring Process

Show of hands, how many people remember when getting hired was all about putting your best foot forward during a face-to-face interview and hoping they liked you? Or when an interview was the first opportunity you had to make a good impression? These days, when the hiring manager says, “tell me about yourself” she probably already knows more about you than you think.

Social media and the employer

Today many organizations check out an applicant’s social media profiles before they even extend the first interview offer. Reading over a candidate’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook feed gives the human resources department insight into the behavior of potential employees to see if they’re a good initial fit.

What you post on your social media accounts can tell them everything from what your political views are to whether you keep your cool over life’s little frustrations. For instance, if you boast about getting mouthy with a barista who messed up your coffee order, you’re probably not a good match for that customer service job you’ve got your eye on.

It may seem unfair that companies sometimes pass over otherwise qualified candidates because of the content of their Vine account, but many managers are glad for the chance to spot potential problem employees before they’re brought on board.

Employment Lawyer Lisa Geurin says the practice is perfectly legal, however it does have it’s limitations. For instance, “an employer who looks at an applicant’s Facebook page or other social media posts could well learn information that it isn’t entitled to have – or to consider during the hiring process,” explains Geurin. “This can lead to discrimination claims. For example, your posts or page might reveal your ethnicity, disclose that you are pregnant, or espouse your political or religious views. This type of information is off limits in the hiring process, and an employer who discovers it online and uses it as a basis for hiring decisions could face a discrimination lawsuit.”

Applicant dos and don’ts

It’s possible to use and maintain social media accounts during your job search as long as you keep a few things in mind.

Don’t give a potential employer your passwords. Some companies may ask you to provide passwords to your social networking accounts during the application process but you are under no obligation to comply. It’s a needless invasion of your privacy and, in fact, dozens of states are in the process of legislating bans against the practice.

Don’t lie about having social media accounts. This one is kind of a no-brainer but important to remember. Even if your accounts aren’t under the name on your job application, there’s still a chance your profiles will be discovered. Hiring managers don’t simply Google your given name, they’ll check to see what services are associated with your email address or even track their way back through peers or colleagues to see if they can find you. It’s easier than you think to pair pseudonyms with real people on the internet.

Don’t assume a protected account is a safe account. Social networks are well-known for changing user privacy settings with little warning or altering their Terms of Use in ways that expose content you think is under wraps. At the very least, check the settings on all your accounts regularly to make sure they’re exactly the way you want them.

Do clean and sanitize. Prior to starting your job search, give your accounts a good scrubbing to remove photos and content that might make an employer look askance. If you must show off photo albums of your wild trip to Cancun or share your thoughts on controversial cultural issues, set up a special group of recipients or over email or smartphone messaging.

Do have a social presence of some sort. Ironically, some employers consider no social media presence at all as off putting as accounts filled with questionable content. More than 74 percent of adults who are online use social media to some degree so unless you’re applying for a job from a yurt in Outer Mongolia, employers expect to see at least some sort of social media footprint from applicants. If they can’t find anything about you, they may wonder what you’re hiding. A Facebook or Twitter page with a few innocuous comments about sports or a handful of pictures of kittens should suffice if you’re the anti-social media type.

Has your social media use ever come up during a job interview? Did it impact whether you got the job?

Image: Flazingo Photos

Join The Conversation

  • MikeKlubok's picture
    Oct 21 Posted 2 years ago MikeKlubok

    You never know who knows who. Before Facebook it was your potential boss could be golfing buddies with someone you work or worked closely with. Today your potential boss could also be good friends with a Facebook friend of yours who will allow him greater access to your profile. So you should realize that if you put something out there, it is out there. 

  • Aug 21 Posted 2 years ago mrcook15

    I think this is a great article. I was in an interview with an employer and they asked me about my social media preference and I told the truth. The person interviewing me later told me they asked about my social media preference because a lot of people lie about being on social media, but they have already searched them online and found them. 

    Having a clean profile is very important in this day and age with how easily accessible the information is. Employers are looking for anything and everything to weed out bad candidates and with how competitive the job market already is, having a lot of vulgar or things on social media that could hurt you are things to pay careful attention to. 

  • Bryan Waxman's picture
    Aug 10 Posted 2 years ago Bryan Waxman

    Great points! I think it's really important for everyone to have a "clean," professional social media presence for their personal brand! I just posted a blog talking about this, check it out!

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