At this point in their careers, business professionals are well aware that recruiters, hiring managers and HR professionals are likely scoping them out on social media sites when they’re under consideration for a job. And, while most savvy job seekers have likely carefully eliminated any party photos, or other potentially career-damaging content from their sites, they may be overlooking some of the clues and cues that hiring teams look for.
The first important point to know: your online presence will be evaluated during the hiring process.
Recruiters, Hiring Managers and HR Pros Are Looking
In fact, research from The Creative Group reveals that 45% of executives surveyed said they search online for information about prospective employees at least some of the time; 26% of executives have decided not to hire a candidate based on what they found.
Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers shares an experience he had when interviewing a candidate who had gone through the initial screening and interview process and was looking good. But then, members of the team did some research about the person online for the final filter. “We found that they were posting political content on their Facebook account,” says Breyer. That, in itself, wasn’t a great concern. But, he says, “they were aggressively and animatedly arguing with people who held opposing views to their own. We viewed this as this individual would struggle if someone on the team wanted to take a project a different direction than they had in mind. We want our team members to be able to set aside their differences and work together and we felt that these actions showed that they wouldn’t be able to perform this way consistently.”
His recommendation: “I would recommend that people going through the interview process clean up their social media. It’s pretty rare that candidates are not getting searched online to see what comes up. Having a neutral site, but one that expresses who you are is important.”
The Value of Social Media Sleuthing
“Candidates’ social media activity can provide recruiters and hiring managers with excellent insight into the candidate’s personality, interests, and general demeanor, as well as their levels of awareness around their online personal branding,” says Lars Herrem, group executive director at Nigel Wright Group, a European recruitment agency. “The latter is particularly important if the candidate is applying for a client-facing role, such as in sales or marketing,” Herrem says.
Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group and a 25-year career expect agrees. “A strong online presence can be a career asset in today’s competitive job market,” Domeyer says. “Many employers are performing online searches—in addition to reviewing resumes and cover letters—in an attempt to learn about prospective hires, including their interests, industry involvement and ability to market themselves effectively.”
Certain types of positions are particularly subject to scrutiny from a social media presence standpoint.
Kristie Jones is principal with Sales Acceleration Group and a sales consultant who interviews and hires candidates for sales positions. “I’m hiring for professional sales positions, so if they don’t have a personal brand on LinkedIn then they probably aren’t a good fit,” says Jones. “I’m also seeing if they are active. Do they like and share content about their industry? I’m also looking for mutual connections that I can reach out to so I can get the inside scoop.” In fact, Jones says: “I won’t even phone screen a candidate if someone I trust tells me something that could be a red flag for my client if I hired the candidate.”
Jones also reviews Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity. On Facebook, she says, “I’m looking to see if they have any extremist views that might not fit the culture of the organization.” She’s also looking for a lot of negativity in posts and how often and when they post to see if personal social media time is taking place during work hours. YouTube, she says, she never used to check “until I Googled a candidate and found out they hosted a Friday night podcast all about “Happy, Healthy, Sex.” I now check YouTube!”
Also read: Drum Up New Career Opportunities on LinkedIn
What to Look For
Herrem shares some examples of the types of questions recruiters are likely looking to answer as they evaluate candidates’ online presence:
- Do they use correct spelling and grammar?
- Do they come across as passionate and engaged, or abusive and confrontational?
- Do they demonstrate an active interest in their discipline or industry by sharing a relevant opinion, news and advice pieces?
- Are they involved in any community or charitable activities?
- What are their main interests outside of work?
- Do they have an extensive and influential number of connections?
- Does their online work history match up to that on their CV/resume?
- Does their LinkedIn profile include recommendations from colleagues and clients?
- Has the candidate been active on their social media profiles during work hours?
The bottom line: it pays to have a presence. But think carefully about the message you’re sending to potential employers through your profiles, your posts, and even your connections.