The perfect candidate has a questionable social media presence: Now what?

If you’re a hiring manager who browses candidates’ social media pages during the hiring cycle, you’re not alone.

If you're a hiring manager who browses candidates' social media pages during the hiring cycle, you're not alone. According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, 7 out of 10 employers screen job candidates using social media. Moreover, the survey revealed that 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview an applicant if he or she is difficult to find online.

But what about a candidate who has offensive social media presence? If an individual doesn't stand up well against the other candidates, poor social media presence is likely to kill his or her chances of securing a job. However, if a candidate shines on paper - and in interviews - is a less-than-stellar online presence enough to knock him or her out of the running?

"We have had many clients make comments about not interviewing or hiring a candidate because of their social media presence," says Ken Cole, Senior Recruiting Manager for Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in Cleveland. "To the employer, questionable content signals lack of preparation – either the candidate is unwilling to monitor his or her online presence by taking steps such as searching for themselves, or they forgot. Either can be a red flag."

Weighing social media behavior against other factors

Social media has become an umbrella term for many different types of online interactions. Hiring managers can discover just about anything regarding a candidate's work history from his or her LinkedIn profile - so long as it's up-to-date. But a LinkedIn profile tends to be a static page. Though the site gives users the ability to share their thoughts on current topics through the main feed, less than half of users do so. In fact, Omnicore reported that only 40 percent of LinkedIn users visit the site daily.

Additional problems arise when hiring managers depend on LinkedIn to learn about job applicants. A LendEDU report found that 23 percent of surveyed users admit to telling a few lies on their profiles - and 11 percent admit to fabricating almost everything on their pages.

Turning to personal social media profiles can give hiring managers a closer look at how candidates present themselves to the world at large. A candidate who has done his or her due diligence will likely set most of these accounts to private. When this isn't the case, the potential for embarrassment increases. That's when hiring managers could run into a predicament.

If candidates perform well during the interview but have one or two offensive social media posts attached to their names, should they be disqualified automatically? Hiring managers will have to determine whether a candidate's posts could be tied back to the company if the individual was hired. If the candidate's posts conflict with the organization's broader beliefs and brand image, it could be risky to hire that individual. After all, a primary purpose of an interview is to determine if the company and candidate are a good match for each other. Fundamental disagreements could undermine that relationship from the beginning.

Some employee actions online may be considered protected activities by local law.

Looking for compromise

Hiring an individual with an offensive, aggressive or ethically compromised social media presence can increase the risk of lost business or high turnover down the road. Dealing with these issues prior to making a job offer is important because off-duty employee conduct may be protected by state or federal law.

Joel J. Greenwald, managing partner at employment and labor law firm Greenwald Doherty, writing in Forbes magazine, explained that actions such as liking posts, retweeting content and following pages may be considered a protected activity, and therefore cannot be grounds for firing. Therefore, if a hiring manager has second thoughts about a job applicant's online presence, he or she should address that concern before extending an offer.

Ideally, the hiring organization should have a policy in place for handling these types of situations. Social Media Examiner suggested developing a policy that clearly explains who is allowed to speak for the organization online. Likewise, the policy should designate specific roles for interacting with customers and clients via social media sites. Human resources should consider developing a contingency plan that covers next steps in the event an employee posts something online that goes against the policy.

The internet changes frequently, and established definitions of appropriate conduct may likewise shift over time. Keeping an updated policy will allow hiring managers to properly assess job candidates and handle employee issues as they arise. Understanding local laws is also vital to the correct handling of employee behavior.

To find qualified candidates for your next open position, consider speaking with the expert recruiters at Beacon Hill Staffing Group today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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