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Social media background checks both hurt and help job candidates

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With more employers researching social media to find additional information on potential job candidates, many people looking for work are asking if these social media background checks will hurt or help them gain employment.

The not so simple answer is: Both.

A new nationwide survey from CareerBuilder found that more than half of employers who researched job candidates on social media – 51 percent – found content that caused them to not hire the candidate, up from 43 percent in 2013 and 34 percent in 2012.

However, the survey also revealed that 33 percent of employers – one third – who researched job candidates on social media found content that made them more likely to hire a candidate while 23 percent – nearly a quarter – found content that directly led to them hiring the candidate, up from 19 percent in 2013.

Overall, the survey found 43 percent of employers used social media background checks to research job candidates, up from 39 percent last year and 36 percent in 2012, while 12 percent of employers did not currently research candidates on social media but planned to start.

“It’s important for job seekers to remember that much of what they post to the Internet – and in some cases what others post about them – can be found by potential employers, and that can affect their chances of getting hired down the road,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, in a press release about the survey.

The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from February to March 2014 and included more than 2,100 hiring managers and human resource professionals and more than 3,000 full-time private sector workers across industries and company sizes.

The survey found the most common reasons employers found on social media that prompted them to eliminate job candidates from consideration included:

  • Job candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information (46 percent)
  • Job candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs (41 percent)
  • Job candidates bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee (36 percent)
  • Job candidate had poor communication skills (32 percent)
  • Job candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion etc. (28 percent)
  • Job candidate lied about qualifications (25 percent)
  • Job candidate shared confidential information from previous employers (24 percent)
  • Job candidate was linked to criminal behavior (22 percent)
  • Job candidate’s screen name was unprofessional (21 percent)
  • Job candidate lied about an absence (13 percent)

On the positive side, some of the most common reasons employers hired a candidate based on their social media presence included:

  • Got a good feel for the job candidate’s personality, could see a good fit within the company culture (46 percent)
  • Job candidate’s background information supported their professional qualifications for the job (45 percent)
  • Job candidate’s site conveyed a professional image (43 percent)
  • Job candidate was well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests (40 percent)
  • Job candidate had great communication skills (40 percent)
  • Job candidate was creative (36 percent)
  • Job candidate received awards and accolades (31 percent)
  • Other people posted great references about the job candidate (30 percent)
  • Job candidate had interacted with my company’s social media accounts (24 percent)
  • Job candidate had a large amount of followers or subscribers (14 percent)

In addition, employers did not limit themselves to social media background checks as the survey found 45 percent of them used search engines such as Google to research potential job candidates, with 20 percent saying they did so frequently or always.

The survey also revealed workers and job seekers were taking measures to protect their privacy: 47 percent of workers – nearly half – only shared posts with friends and family, 41 percent had profiles set to private, and 18 percent kept separate professional and personal profiles.

“Job seekers need to stay vigilant, and pay attention to privacy updates from all of their social networking accounts so they know what information is out there for others to see,” said Haefner. “Take control of your web presence by limiting who can post to your profile and monitoring posts you’ve been tagged in.”

CareerBuilder is the global leader in human capital solutions with an online career site, CareerBuilder.com®, that is the largest in the United States with more than 24 million unique visitors and 1 million jobs. To access the new CareerBuilder survey, click here.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a nationwide accredited background check firm located in the San Francisco, CA area – offers a free white paper titled ‘Ten Potential Dangers When Using Social Media Background Checks’ to help employers understand the possible risks of using the Internet to screen job applicants. To access the free white paper, click here.

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