What to do when an applicant's social media presence is questionable

Social media screenings are becoming more common in the process of hiring new employees. What's your process for dealing with applicants who have questionable social media content?

Let's say you receive a job application from a qualified candidate. They have an impressive resume and a well-thought-out cover letter, so you're considering bringing them in for an interview. Then, you search for their name on Facebook and discover that their profile is littered with unprofessionalism.

As a recruiter, how serious of an issue is this? Do you still reach out to them and schedule the interview? This is a difficult situation to be in, as there are many differing opinions regarding how to deal with an applicant who has an unfavorable social media presence. Regardless, it's an issue that you're bound to run into sooner or later, since over half of employers currently incorporate social media screening into their hiring process.

First, let's define 'questionable'

When you conduct a social media screening of an applicant, what are the red flags you should be looking for? If their social media content is generally unflattering, they might not fit in well with your company's culture.

Pictures of the candidate drinking and doing drugs is commonly a bad sign. If you hire them, there could be moments where they're representing your company either in public or online, so you want to make sure that the new-hire takes their professional image seriously.

Another red flag to look out for is hateful content. You don't want to surround your employees with somebody who frequently posts racist or homophobic statements on Twitter, as they're more likely to bring that kind of talk into the workplace. This can lead to serious HR issues and even lawsuits.

"The power of social media is undeniable these days," says John Bove, Division Director of Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in Chicago. "While we want to be respectful of candidates' rights to express themselves, it is important to remember that you are a representation of your colleagues and employer. Public social media content that is not aligned with a company's values or presents moral or ethical conflict sets a potentially dangerous precedent – in an employer's eyes, if it has happened once before, what will keep it from happening again? Furthermore, if you wouldn't want an employer to draw conclusions about you due to what you post online, it is best to keep your settings private. Social media can be a powerful tool for spreading positive messages as well, and we encourage individuals to use it in those ways."

Employers use social media to learn more about potential hires.

Acknowledge the positives as well

Rather than simply scanning their social media pages for red flags, use that time to gather positive information about the applicant as well. You can learn a lot about people by looking at the pictures they're tagged in and the content they post.

Does the candidate display happiness and professionalism in their pictures? Are they involved with any charities or other organizations? Are they creative? Perhaps he or she frequently posts about local volunteer opportunities. Or maybe they're a musician who uses social media to share their songs. These are all good signs that the applicant will fit into most work cultures.

Rely on a formal social media screening process

If your company recently adopted social media screenings into the application process, make sure you establish a formal list of dos and don'ts. You want this process to be as objective as possible in order to avoid missing out on good hires or facing legal trouble. If a qualified candidate feels like they didn't get the job because they were discriminated against, that could lead to a lawsuit.

The most important part of creating an objective screening process is making sure there's no bias involved. In other words, if you're going to look at one applicant's social media presence, you have to look at every applicant's, regardless of political views, age, gender, class, race, etc.

Do you need assistance with screening applicants? Professional recruiters at Beacon Hill can help!

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

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