Social Media Accounts vs. HR Background Check

Social Media Accounts vs. HR Background Check

Organizations and their hiring managers are increasingly doing background checks on their job applicants through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. If you have an account on these platforms, ask yourself—what type of content are these companies going to find? Will they still be willing to hire you when they see your posts?

Recruiters are always on the lookout for the best candidates, and what they find on social media can help them determine the right person for the job. Existing laws provide a useful framework for using social media for hiring, but they are far from comprehensive.

The basics of social media background checks

Employers are required by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ask your permission to perform an official background report—which may include criminal background and credit check. However, thanks to the Internet, employers now have informal ways to conduct checks without seeking your approval and without violating any law, and depending on your privacy settings—and even those of your friends and followers—potentially risky posts that involve you could be available for all interested parties to see.

According to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 77% of respondents use social media sites to find suitable candidates for a job vacancy. Meanwhile, 70% of employers use social media to screen applicants before hiring them, according to a CareerBuilder study. References to drug use, violent tendencies, sexually offensive opinions, and heavy drinking are some of the reasons cited by employers for rejecting job applicants. The same study also found that 57% didn’t interview a candidate they couldn’t find online, and 54% hired a candidate based on their social media profiles.

Nowadays, it’s not unusual for a lone employee’s offensive online post to thrust companies into a reputation nightmare, and so to protect their brands they tell hiring managers and HR personnel to always on the lookout for potential risks that can impact hiring decisions. With this in mind, your way of expressing your thoughts and opinions online can become a problem once you go job hunting.

Understanding the social factors

People use social media for various reasons including letting followers know how their day went, posting pictures, staying in touch with family and friends, or keeping up to date with the celebrities, organizations, and media outlets they follow. Of course, some people also use these platforms to air out grievances and rants, post pictures of revelry or share risqué content. Unfortunately, not all of these are agreeable to many people, and they can become the basis for the image that a potential employer paints about you. Though this image may be unfair, as it does not paint a complete picture of you as a person, you may find it impossible to challenge once it’s formed.

Why is social media screening valuable for organizations?

For recruiters and hiring managers, social media helps ‘humanize’ a candidate and give them a glimpse into their personality beyond the descriptions and statistics on their resume. Social media content often shows both the positive and negative side of the account owner, which makes them an excellent source of information for companies looking to make sure the candidate would be a good fit for their processes and work culture.

You can do something about it

The good news is, if you haven’t sent out your resumes yet, you may still have time to take care of potential red flags before they hurt your chances of getting hired, and ensure you are accurately represented online.

Be responsible online

Putting yourself in the shoes of others goes a long way when considering whether or not a post is worth sharing on social media. You may also have to review past posts and delete or change the privacy settings of those that may be viewed as inappropriate by people who don’t know you. Likewise, untag yourself from any questionable posts and pictures by your friends. If sifting through all your social media channels sounds like too much work, you may try changing your name—a method often used by students applying to law or medical school. Or you can use a free reputation management site like Talkwalker to scan your social media pages for potential warning signs.

Go a step further

Many employers go beyond social media to research a potential employee. According to CareerBuilder, about 70% of companies use search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to look up candidates. If you have negative comments about you online, you can’t simply leave them alone as these can deter potential employers. You need to deal with negative feedback the best way possible, which is to respond and address the issues appropriately and promptly. Doing so can help prevent further escalation, as well as show to potential employers your maturity in dealing with problems.

Honesty was, is and will always be the best policy

You can’t possibly cover everything, so if a hiring manager does find a red flag and asks you about it, be honest. That said, it’s important to plan what you’ll say to preempt any concerns. For instance, if they ask you about that “Happy 420” message you forgot to delete, you may say something like “I can’t say I haven’t made foolish choices in the past,” if you’re no longer using or “My lifestyle choices may be disagreeable to some people, but I have never let them interfere with the quality of my work,” if you are.

Think twice before you post

Many careers have come to an abrupt end just because of what they posted online. Moving forward, it pays to ponder before you post. Think about how a message, image, share, or joke is going to be received by your friends and followers. This doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of speaking your mind, but as a matter of decency, make sure your posts are really suitable for the general audience. Not everything you post cannot be undone, especially if it has been read, shared, or grabbed as a screenshot.

Benefitting from social media use

While the inappropriate content on social media can destroy your chances of landing a job, the right kind of content can increase it. For instance, sharing accomplishments and volunteering activities can tell hiring managers that you are a responsible person that can be trusted to take on more advanced tasks. The takeaway here is to be clean and consistent with your social media presence and make sure every post adds value to your personal brand.

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