37% of Companies Use Social Networks to Research Potential Job Candidates

Press release from the issuing company

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

With the pervasive, worldwide adoption of social media, job seekers know that the all-important first impression is potentially made well before the first interview. But just how many hiring managers browse social media profiles, and what type of information are they hunting?  

Nearly two in five companies (37 percent) use social networking sites to research job candidates, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. Of the employers who do not research candidates on social media, 15 percent said their company prohibits the practice. Eleven percent report they do not currently use social media to screen, but plan to start.

In a 2009 study of employers who conduct online background checks, 45 percent said they used social media to screen job candidates. 

The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive from February 9 to March 2, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes. 

What are hiring managers looking for on social media?
Hiring managers are using social media to evaluate candidates' character and personality outside the confines of the traditional interview process. When asked why they use social networks to conduct background research, hiring managers stated the following:

  • To see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally – 65 percent
  • To see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture – 51 percent
  • To learn more about the candidate's qualifications – 45 percent
  • To see if the candidate is well-rounded – 35 percent
  • To look for reasons not to hire the candidate – 12 percent

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

Is social media helping or hurting job candidates?
A third (34 percent) of hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate. That content ranges from evidence of inappropriate behavior to information that contradicted their listed qualifications:

  • Candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos/info – 49 percent  
  • There was info about candidate drinking or using drugs – 45 percent
  • Candidate had poor communication skills – 35 percent
  • Candidate bad mouthed previous employer – 33 percent
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. – 28 percent
  • Candidate lied about qualifications – 22 percent

While screening for red flags is one a reason for social media research, employers are also looking for information that could potentially give a job seeker an advantage. Three in ten hiring managers (29 percent) said they have found something that has caused them to hire a candidate, citing content that showed them the following:

  • Good feel for candidate's personality – 58 percent
  • Conveyed a professional image – 55 percent
  • Background information supported professional qualifications – 54 percent
  • Well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests – 51 percent
  • Great communication skills – 49 percent
  • Candidate was creative – 44 percent
  • Other people posted great references about the candidate – 34 percent

Haefner says the research reiterates the importance of controlling your online persona. 

"Job seekers should be mindful of what potential employers can learn about them online," she said. "If you choose to leave social media content public, tailor the message to your advantage. Filter out anything that can tarnish your professional reputation and post communications, links and photos that portray you in the best possible light."

Employers are primarily using Facebook (65 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) to research candidates; 16 percent use Twitter. 


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