Recruiters and hiring managers don't like surprises. Hiring and training new employees is vital to any organization, but also risky, difficult, and potentially very expensive. If that new PR writer with the dream resume and soaring interviews turned out to be an axe murderer, well - the boss is going to ask some very pointed questions.
So, the criminal background check became routine for almost every corporate job. So did the drug screen. And the education verification. And these days - the social media check.
Job seekers: Count on the fact that hiring managers or recruiters will Google you. Looking you up onFacebook and Twitter is now also a routine part of applicant screening for many employers. Most importantly, they will probably do this before contacting you. This means you may never know if your social media presence had an impact on your candidacy.
The good news is that your social media profile can get you hired. Of course employers look for red flags but they also want to round out their knowledge of you beyond what they can learn from the resume and interview. Your stock goes up when your social media presence demonstrates integrity and consistency with your professional accomplishments. It rises even more if your profile helps an employer see that you'd fit well into their organizational culture.
The bad news is that if an employer finds something they don't like, they may use that information to reject you and there may not be much you can do about it. Qualified candidates have missed out on job opportunities because of social media posts, and it's not just late-night party photos that get them in trouble.
The quality, tone, and subject matter of status updates and tweets matter. Consider how potential employers might perceive profanity or coarse language, a confrontational stance toward others, your opinion on controversial topics, or negative comments about work, co-workers, and/or bosses.
Should all this be considered free speech? Definitely. You won't be arrested for what you say online (unless you are bragging about your recent criminal exploits). But that's a much different question from "Should my social media presence be private and off-limits to potential employers?" Right now the law on this is not settled and until it is employers can and do use social media to evaluate job applicants.
Employers like applicants who are positive, engaged, stable, and who seem like an organizational fit. As a job seeker, make sure your online profile validates what they can learn about you from your resume and hopefully also from your interview.
In closing, here are three related thoughts- First, some information about you actually is off limits for employers. It is illegal to use information about your race, religion, age, gender, pregnancy status, national origin, or disability status in making hiring decisions. You already know not to include these details in your resume and job applications, and employers should already know not to ask you about them. Companies that obtain this information inadvertently - say, from your family photo on Facebook - are required to ignore it.
Second, once you are hired be sure to seek out and learn your new employer's social media usage policy. Hopefully it has one, but if not then adopt this one as your own: Never post proprietary or confidential information of any kind, and never make statements that could damage your employer's business relationships or reputation.
Finally, even if you have been prudent with your social media privacy settings, always assume information you post can be copied, pasted, and distributed by others. We've seen it happen, and we've seen people lose their jobs because of it. Please don't let it happen to you.
Managing Your Online Image Across Social Networks from The Reppler Effect
How Virtual Footprints Affect Employment by Gregory Saukulak, Recruiting Blogs
Considerations When Screening Applicants with Social Media - Part II from Stokes, Lazarus & Carmichael LLP
Clearpoint is a staffing agency for jobs in information technology, marketing, creative, and other professionals. We do business by building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with our employees and clients.