Background Checking Candidates with Social Media

A growing number of executive recruiters and hiring managers are using social media and Internet searches to screen candidates, a new survey has found. Experts suggest that the best response to ‘social recruiting’ is to cultivate a positive online persona. Mike Gamble, president of Taylor Strategy Partners, weighs in.

June 5, 2018 – Increasing numbers of search firms and employers are using social media and Internet searches to screen candidates before hiring, according to a recent poll.

While drug testing and credit checks used to be the biggest factors that could disqualify an otherwise great candidate, formal social media evaluations are now being added to the list, according to the 2018 MRINetwork ‘Reputation Management Study.’ Gone are the days of anyone in charge of hiring casually reviewing social media to assess prospective hires, and candidates are catching on.

Eighteen percent of employers formally evaluate candidates’ social media profiles, and another 17 percent say they’re considering it, said the report. This points to a growing trend of using social media reviews as an important part of the hiring process.

In terms of what employers and recruiters focus on when evaluating social media profiles, both looked to questionable behavior or content most often. MRINetwork found that 27 percent of employers say active engagement in professional or trade associations throughout a candidate’s social media presence is second on their list. Nineteen percent of companies also report that offensive social or political views are analyzed.

Personal Branding

Nearly half (48 percent) of candidates believe their social media presence is important or very important to potential employers. While the level of importance varies by industry, this indicates many job seekers are aware of the impact their activity on social media can have in the hiring process, said the MRINetwork report.

Included in the MRINetwork report were comments from both candidates and employers in regard to social media screening. Below are some of the those remarks:

Candidate Comments

  • How you present yourself on social media is a reflection of your true character, both professional and personal. If it is displayed for the public to see, it is a valid way for employers to analyze potential candidates for a position.
  • LinkedIn notwithstanding, many employers have at least a basic level of curiosity associated with the non-professional side of a potential employee’s personality. These forums (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) can round out a person’s profile.
  • I’m confident this will become an increasingly important and commonplace assessment step in all comprehensive candidate evaluation.
  • Depends on industry and job specifications.

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  • Social media provides a window into a candidate’s life that will not be available in a face-to-face interview. It can strongly influence the decision to interview/hire an applicant.
  • An unprofessional presence can bar an otherwise qualified candidate from further consideration.

Employers Weigh In

  • We would like to know how candidates represent themselves outside of work, as they will need to have the maturity and positive personality to represent the company both professionally and socially.
  • We would never hire without seriously searching all platforms. All platforms could use better search capabilities.
  • It would depend on the position we have open.
  • We don’t regularly check social media accounts as we hire based on reputation.

Formal Social Media Reviews

Virtually all (92 percent) of candidates said in recent interviews, potential employers had not asked permission to conduct a formal social media review.

Related: More Companies Using Social Media to Reject Job Candidates

The report found that candidates and employers are on the same page about the focus of social media profiles: Both selected questionable behavior or content most often. Trade/professional associations and expressions of offensive social or political views were the second and third most selected factors.

Similar Findings

Recent research from Totaljobs Group revealed that three quarters (74 percent) of interviewers will check candidates’ social media as part of their interview preparation. This is in contrast to the expectations of candidates, however, as only a third (36 percent) expect their social media to be screened, meaning many could be caught short online.

Another report, by CareerBuilder, found that 70 percent of employers said they screen candidates by checking their social media postings, a jump from 60 percent last year. For many human resource functions, social recruiting is an integral part of their operation, with 30 percent of those surveyed assigning someone to perform such checking. Employers want to know about job seekers beyond their basic resume. Respondents told CareerBuilder that the kind of information they are seeking includes: evidence of the individual’s qualifications for the job (61 percent), whether the candidate has a professional online persona (50 percent), what others have posted about the candidate (37 percent) and a reason not to hire the candidate (24 percent).

Related: How Job Seekers Can Cultivate a Social Media Presence and Win Big Opportunities

“Most workers have some sort of online presence today – and more than half of employers won’t hire those without one,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer (CHRO) at CareerBuilder. “This shows the importance of cultivating a positive online persona. Job seekers should make their professional profiles visible online and ensure any information that could negatively impact their job search is made private or removed.”

Search Leader Weighs In

Mike Gamble, president of healthcare and life sciences search firm Taylor Strategy Partners, recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss how social media has changed the recruiting business. Following are excerpts from that interview.

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Mike GambleMike, how much do recruiters now rely on social media to screen candidates?

All our recruiters use LinkedIn’s professional platform to search for candidates. It’s an essential part of our process. We find many candidates through our own database and by posting on job boards, but social media expands the number of people we can connect with. Having multiple avenues with which to connect with talent allows us to create more diverse pipelines, fill harder jobs, and find a way to identify top tier talent. Before, you might need to stand at a conference for hours to meet a handful of people. Now, you’re a click away from Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and whoever is about to transform your marketing department.

What else is social media helping with?

Recruiters look at a candidate’s social media profile to learn their professional experience, but it’s also a peek into their personalities and interests. Someone’s LinkedIn profile might reflect their volunteer work, networking abilities, or how in tune they are with their industry. It means we can source and start to screen candidates all at once. After we connect on LinkedIn, we move the candidates into the next part of the process, where we talk over the phone, learn about who they are, and start to judge their fit for a role.


Social Media Making New Inroads In Hiring Process
Job seekers are putting social media to work, as approximately 3.3 million job applications were submitted using social media profiles to pre-populate online submission forms, according to latest iCIMS “Job Seekers Get Social” report, which analyzes the role of social networks in the job application process. 


What are the benefits and any negative consequences?

People are more than their resumes. Of course, a candidate’s experience in an industry matters – but to find a great candidate for a role, recruiters need to understand who they are as people, what matters to them, and how that fits in with the culture of the company. Social media helps us do this at the very first step. By using social media, recruiters meet candidates where they are. Some of the best hires are passive candidates, where someone isn’t taking the time to look for open positions. They aren’t necessarily checking out a company’s career page to see open opportunities, but they do have LinkedIn pages. We can reach them there. On the other hand, social media has helped candidates be more proactive in looking for work. They can find recruiters, join talent communities, and follow companies they want to work for. This is great on our end, because we love to engage with candidates who are passionate about our clients’ work. When one of our recruiters reaches out to a candidate, we can’t assume they know anything about us. We encourage our recruiters to post on their own LinkedIn pages about our industry, their open roles, or even things of personal interest to them. Just like we use social media to see the personal side of candidates, it helps when candidates can see who our recruiters are personally. We start to build a trusting relationship that way. Ultimately, it goes back to building a personal process. Good recruiters believe in being transparent, getting to know their candidates, and working hard to find the absolute best fit for a role. Social media introduces a personal level to the process, which helps recruiters and candidates get to know each other. There’s no downside to that.

“Recruiting is all about learning about people and building relationships, and social media improves that on both ends.”

Related: Expanding Role of Social Media In Finding Talent to Rise Sharply

What form of social media does your firm use to look at candidate backgrounds?

We primarily use LinkedIn’s professional platform. Our recruiters reach out to possible candidates, and they also post graphics on their feeds to advertise open positions to all of their connections. By using LinkedIn job slots, we capture a lot of data related to engagement and market impact that we don’t get from other job boards. While we primarily focus on LinkedIn, we also share blogs from our website and relevant news stories on Twitter and Facebook.

How has social media changed recruiting?

Recruiters used to engage in a lot of cold calling to find candidates for jobs. It was a ton of guess work. By sourcing through social media, we save a lot of time, and we immediately have their employment history, a list of skills, and more. It automatically makes the lead a little warmer. Plus, reaching out on social media instead of through the phone means we aren’t just a voice at the other end of a line. They see our name and photo and who we work for. Recruiting is all about learning about people and building relationships, and social media improves that on both ends. Social media has also changed the way candidates learn about companies. Candidates don’t just read a job post and click “apply.” They check out a company’s website, rating on Glassdoor, and social profiles. Companies need to put thought into their own digital footprint, because we know candidates check those things to gauge interest in an open position. This extends beyond recruiters into a company’s entire talent acquisition strategy. Companies know they need to treat candidates with respect and provide a lot of information to engage with and keep top talent. Social media is often a part of that strategy. Social media has also leveled the playing field. Recruiters no longer have exclusive relationships with passive candidates they have sourced, as other recruiters can find those people too.  It makes the recruiters work harder to be more professional and form stronger relationships with their candidates and clients.

Related: Social Media Continues to Play Big Role in Recruiting

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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