What to Do When Good Talent Has Suspicious Social Media

What to Do When Good Talent Has Suspicious Social Media
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When employers find a promising candidate, they’re bound to refer to that person's social media -- and come up against an evolving trend in hiring: While questionable social media content used to automatically disqualify candidates for a position, in today's difficult talent-search environment, more employers are giving job-seekers a second chance.

Related: The 8 Biggest Mistakes on Resumes, and How to Correct Them

In fact, a January survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 39 percent of the 410 HR professionals surveyed said they allowed employees to explain questionable content on their social media profiles.

So, how do employers know when to allow job seekers the chance to explain, and when should they disqualify them? Here are some questions to consider regarding a candidate’s social media presence:

1. Does the information presented align with the candidate's resume?

Dishonesty on resumes is common. In an August 2014 CareerBuilder study, 58 percent of the 2,188 hiring and other HR professionals surveyed said that they had caught a lie on a resume at some point. Slightly more than half said they had then dismissed the candidate immediately.

So, in your own hiring process, set guidelines regarding your consideration of dishonest applicants. After all, trust is highly important in a professional relationship. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed by CareerBuilder listed embellished skill sets as the lie they most frequently saw. Embellished past responsibilities (55 percent) was a close second.

The question to ask yourself, of course is: If candidates are being dishonest about this, what else might they to lie about?

Know where your company stands on disqualification standards and how to identify whether or not a resume is accurate. In an October 2015 study from Adecco, 54 percent of the more than 4,168 recruiters surveyed said they excluded candidates based on online information that contradicted their CVs. Address these contradictions directly in the interview, with specific questions. If the-job seeker provides vague, rambling answers, chances are he or she is lying or trying to avoid the confrontation.

If the candidate is up-front, however, and characterizes the concerning content as a miscommunication, he or she has created an opportunity to reestablish trust. For example, perhaps a data entry error occurred in an automatied system. 

Still unsure? Use online tools like HireRight to assist with the screening process.

2. Is the candidate posting inappropriate material?

Along with specifying standards for disqualification in regard to dishonest applications, hiring managers should also specify their policies regarding controversial or inappropriate material.

What is/was the purpose of the job-seeker's social media presence? What is he/she using it for? How is this individual representing himself/herself publicly?

A September 2015 Jobvite study found that 54 percent of 1,404 recruiters surveyed viewed depictions of alcohol use negatively and 75 percent viewed marijuana use negatively. Seventy-six percent, meanwhile, found the sharing of details about volunteer, professional and social engagement work positive.

When a candidate shares posts demonstrating questionable behavior, inquire about those posts to gauge the candidate's own perception of that type of behavior. Does this person consider it unprofessional? Is this how he or she want clients to view the matter?

On the other hand, a little-to-no online presence may suggest the candidate is hiding something. Thirty-three percent of recruiters in marketing and communications have said in surveys that they view a limited social media presence negatively.

Related: 9 Questions to Ask Candidates' References

3. What kind of content is being posted?

Assume job-seekers know their online presence will be evaluated during the recruitment process. The Jobvite study found that only 4 percent of recruiters surveyed did not check social media during their recruitment process.

So, pay attention to the content. How does this candidate's online persona relate to the company and the position? How does it speak to this person's work ethic? If he or she appears to be a good fit for the culture, or demonstrates skills that could be translated into the role, consider advancing this individual to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Writing and communication skills are another obvious factor when it comes to social media. If the applicant uses improper grammar and makes numerous spelling errors, he or she might really lack those skills. If, in contrast, a candidate illustratrates excellent writing and communication skills, he or she should be looked upon favorably. The care taken to avoid such errors likely illustrates a detail-oriented nature.

Related: 5 Tips for Hiring the Right 'Fit' Early in Your Company's Growth

How does your company address candidates with a suspicious or contradictory online presence?