Pros and Cons of Looking at Candidate Social Media Accounts

Hiring is about information. The more you have, the more you can ensure you’re making the right decisions with your candidates. The internet has information on almost everyone, including access to social media accounts where you can learn about potential applicants and their personal lives.
But should you?
There are benefits and weaknesses to looking up a candidate’s social media profile. In this post, we’ll explore some of these benefits and weaknesses.

Benefits of Viewing Candidate Social Media

  • Unfiltered Information – You can learn a lot about the candidate as a person by their social media accounts. You can learn their interests, what they look like, what they write like. You can get an idea of their intelligence level, character, and lifestyle. People say you should never judge a book by its cover, but what people post willingly online can say a lot about them as a person.
  • Commitment to the Field – You can also see how passionate they are about their field, especially if they are in a field that is popularly written about on social media. For example, if you’re hiring a marketer, and you find that their Twitter profile is full of retweets about marketing and posts promoting their current or former employer, chances are they are a more talented marketer than one that posts about alcohol.
  • Preparation – In some ways, you can also tell about a candidate’s preparation. Most applicants know that someone can look at their profiles. The candidates that are aware of how important it is to develop a healthy reputation with employers will clean up their profiles before they apply. If you can find numerous unprofessional posts, it tells you something about the candidate’s priorities.

Weaknesses of Viewing Candidate Social Media

  • Biases – The problem, however, is that the more you learn about a candidate’s personal life the more you can introduce biases, even if you don’t intend to. You may find about the candidate’s age, attractiveness, marital status, children and more, and all of these can introduce unintended biases that may affect your hiring decision.
  • Legality – Similarly, these biases can introduce legal issues. What if you find that one candidate is physically attractive and another is not, and you decide to hire the attractive candidate? That may not be legal. Similarly, if you decide that a candidate is too old or has too many kids and you convince yourself that they aren’t going to be good workers as a result, that may not be legal either.
  • Private/Professional – In addition, what someone shares on social media may not be what they are or what they believe. People do a lot of things in personal settings that aren’t “who they are” simply because of who their friends are or how they prefer to interact with others. You may be learning the wrong information, since the medium you’re using to judge them isn’t about their professional experiences.

Choosing Whether or Not to Search

What you decide to do is up to you. But there are so many ways to tell if a candidate is right for the job that go beyond social media, that it isn’t normally necessary. It’s possible there is a time that you feel like you absolutely need to know more about an applicant before hiring them, but be careful that you’re not letting what you find influence your decision more than it should.
If you’d like a team of experts to analyse candidates for you, so that all you need to worry about is the interview, contact Recruit Shop today.

3 replies
  1. Patricia
    Patricia says:

    Employers should never have the right to ask or check a potential or employee’s social media.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      I agree with you, Patricia. It should be incredibly illegal for someone to infer your professional ability from details of your personal life.
      Hiring HR to snoop into someone’s social profile is no different from hiring some kind of private investigator to discreetly follow you around while you’re down the pub on a Saturday. That would be seen as an horrendous breach of privacy, and the only reason this action is being considered as “okay” is because it only requires minimal effort and no real expense. The fact that information is in the “public domain” is not relevant – so is what I say around the bar to my mates, if you’re able to hear it.
      Recruitment is a risk. That’s why it’s legal to have “probation” periods – to make sure your new hire is up to the requirements of the role, and didn’t lie their way into the position. Apart from that, it’s a risk that needs to be taken.

  2. David
    David says:

    Disagree Mark & Patricia – What occurs in a social setting could very well have an immense effect on your brand should it be inappropriate, illegal, immoral or just plain stupid.
    As soon as someone updates their work status to that of association to a brand, there is a link. Is it a positive, negligible or negative link?
    Pre-empt the need to wait for a probation period to work out or not, by at least obtaining a more well-rounded picture of the potential employee.
    You may think what you say around the table at the pub has no effect on where you work, this is incorrect. We are all continually monitored by others. Are our actions external of the workplace, separate from employment totally? Not really, as we are all Brand Ambassadors for our respective business’s.
    Potential clients exist everywhere. Our actions require appropriate reflection.

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