We’ve talked in previous blogs about how what you say and post online can have negative impacts on your employment. You now know that an unprofessional online presence can get you fired, but did you know it can also prevent you from getting hired in the first place?
Impact of Social Media on the Hiring Process
Today, job applicants can expect to be vetted based on their online profiles at all stages of the hiring process. Various studies have shown that around three quarters of hiring managers and recruiters will research candidate’s online presence to help them determine who to hire.
After all, your online presence offers recruiters a sneak peek at who you are beyond the bulleted columns of your resume. For employers, networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook may offer insights about a candidate’s character and personality as well as the accuracy of their qualifications.
What are Recruiters Looking for?
LinkedIn is usually the first site employers will turn to in order to gain a more complete picture of candidates. LinkedIn allows them to easily verify your references and qualifications. Inconsistencies between what you say on your resume and your online profiles is an immediate red flag.
Importantly, employers are looking to see if there is anything in your online behavior that would make them want to reconsider your hire. They are looking to see if you present professionally. Have you bad-mouthed a previous employer, for example? Do your interests and activities suggest that you are well rounded and will fit into the existing work culture? How is your spelling and grammar?
According to Forbes, about a third of employers who browse candidate’s social media say they have found materials that have disqualified the candidate. The most common culprits are:
- inappropriate photos and information;
- evidence of alcohol and drug use;
- discriminatory posts or comments; and
- false qualifications.
Don’t Hide Away
As a job applicant you have the option to adjust your privacy setting on various social media so that recruiters can’t see your activities. But in doing so you will be missing the opportunity to use your internet persona to your advantage. Your profiles and posts offer a unique opportunity to highlight your accomplishments and show yourself in a positive light.
So perhaps you will want to keep your Facebook posts joking about last Friday’s debauchery private but those Instagram shots of you playing soccer or those clever tweets about your MP’s latest policy pivot can only work to your advantage.
What About my Privacy Rights Online?
Generally speaking, recruiters are within their right to view public profiles. Applicants do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for information that is publicly available. If you are not sure how private your accounts are, most sites offer you the option to ‘view page as’ and see what your profile looks like to people outside of your network and adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
Recruiters should be warned, however, that not everything they see online can be used in the hiring decision-making process. Learning about things that should not factor into hiring decisions but might do so, even subconsciously, can pose a legal risk for hiring managers. Human rights law ensures that things like a candidate’s race, gender or disability, for example, cannot factor into hiring decisions.
Searching an applicant’s online presence should be approached in much the same way as workplace privacy is (see our blog post here on guidelines on workplace privacy and PIPEDA & Privacy Laws). Managing discrimination and privacy risks should be of the utmost concern. Recruiters should have a specific, relevant reason for looking at an applicant’s online profiles as part of the hiring process. They should have clear policies with regards to this gathering of information, and applicants should be made aware of what employers will be examining and why.