Should you be checking your candidates’ social media pages?

These days, most employers check their candidates’ social media accounts. It seems inevitable, in a culture in which social media use is so prevalent. Checking your candidates’ social media can give a quick insight into their personality. It can also be used as a tool to see if the way they’ve portrayed themselves on their CV and during interviews is accurate.

However, is it ethical?

70% of prospective employers check their candidates’ social media profiles, and 7% plan to start. With this many employers’ utilising this method in their recruitment processes, there are questions about ethics that need to be asked. Such as, is this method invading candidates’ personal lives too far? As well as this there are legal risks involved with seeking out information on job applicants further than the information they have directly given you.

Your company may already have strict rules in place about what hiring managers should and should not know about candidates before interview. For example, any company which utilises blind recruitment techniques should not be checking social media profiles.

However, while many companies do not have such strict restrictions in place, all companies have specific guidelines to follow. This is when it comes to avoiding discrimination based on age, gender, sexuality and race. So, is it fair to judge a candidate on how they portray themselves on social media?

Can you avoid personal bias when screening social media profiles?

Social media profiles can reveal all the above characteristics of a candidate. As well as this, social media can open up a window into other, personal aspects of their lives that they have not directly let you in on.

So, if your recruitment process includes social media profile screening, hiring managers should avoid doing this until they have met the candidate for an initial interview. Utilising the technique before the interview stage could result in accusations of a biased approach to recruitment. No matter your companies’ intentions, it’s always best to eradicate room for misinterpretation.

Social media is most commonly used as a place for personal expression. It should, therefore, be considered that most people do not have future employers in mind when updating their profiles. Social media is, essentially, personal, not professional. So, holding candidates to a professional standard on their profile might mean your company turns down applicants who have the potential to be a perfect fit for the job.

Judging a candidate’s profile to assess if they are a good fit for your company culture is like judging a book by its cover. Social media profiles are rarely completely honest. Often, they show particular elements of people’s lives while leaving out huge chunks.

What are recruiters looking for when screening online profiles?

Research shows that recruiters have been put off candidates by specific things that bother them personally. For example, political rants, alcohol consumption and grammatical errors all proved to be red flags.

However, you cannot judge a person’s entire personality from the parts they choose to show on their social media pages. Often, social media tends to exaggerate some aspects of people’s lives by isolating it.

So, ultimately, there is a real risk that your company could be missing out by checking social media profiles. After all, if there are questions you would never ask in an interview, it is best not to find out the answers via social media inadvertently. Social media profiles very rarely paint the full picture.

Of course, there are benefits to checking social media profiles.

Research has shown that 58% of employers who conduct social media screenings are looking for information to support a candidate’s application. For example, to clarify a person’s identity. If candidates make claims about their personality in their CV, you can try to check these against what they show online. You can also use the platform to gain more of a glimpse into who they are, beyond the CV.

However, it is possible that employers are becoming too dependent on this method to support their recruitment processes. According to research, 47% of employers said they wouldn’t call a person for an interview if they can’t find them online. This indicates a reliance on online profiles that, in some cases, eliminates a candidate from the process.

To conclude?

It is easy to presume that most people now use social media in some capacity. However, many people choose not to. So, it is important not to allow preconceptions to overrule ethical and personal recruitment processes.

So, while checking social media pages can have its uses, it is best to do so with caution. Ultimately, never allow the importance of an online presence to come before a face-to-face communication with a candidate. Digital processes can never replace the importance of human interaction.