Should Employers use Social Media to Evaluate Candidates?


It’s no secret, most employers check the social media profiles of top candidates before making a hire. While job seekers are becoming more and more aware of this, it can be difficult to determine exactly what red flags can make an employer change their mind. Taylor Cotterell, Executive VP at NaviTrust says “Employers check social media outlets to check for items that you can’t ask in an interview, and it predominantly goes back to culture fit. For example, if a conservative company hires someone who is not, it is not in the best interest of anyone. Culture fit is critical.”

Potential Downfall

Although most employers use social media to gauge whether or not a candidate will be a good fit for the company culture overall, a recent study conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University has found potential for problems. In the study, researchers sent out dummy resumes to several firms and created fake social media profiles for each. Their findings revealed that many employers were biased in their decisions based on the religious backgrounds of the candidates. Researchers fear that this bias could ultimately lead to discrimination lawsuits.

The Importance of Social Media Evaluation

Although the researchers in this study urge against using social media to evaluate candidates, it is too valuable of a tool to throw out. Checking a candidate’s social media profiles can save both the employer and the employee from making a bad match. Cotterell says “Social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus) is an important tool to evaluate candidates, more so based on their personality and character than their skills and/or abilities.”

Using it to Benefit Your Firm

So how can you leverage social media during your interview process without creating a bias? Stay objective during your evaluation by keeping the goal of getting to know the candidate in mind. Cotterell also suggests using “reference checks and behavioral interviewing questions to better understand their personalities, interests, and how they deal with different situations.”

Another great place to find more information on your candidates is LinkedIn. While this platform doesn’t provide the personal touch of most social media, it does allow you to get a closer look at a candidate’s past employment. In commenting on LinkedIn, Cotterell said “LinkedIn is a terrific tool to be able to look at professional skills and background. It is best used as an online resume, so we can look for an individual’s accomplishments, successes, etc. “

In sum, coming up with a solid plan for social media evaluation will help you and your team stay objective throughout the process. Create checks and balances by looking to a variety of social profiles for each candidate and get a second opinion to eliminate personal bias on your level. Using social media to evaluate your candidates can be hugely beneficial to finding the right fit if done correctly.

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