3 Ways Companies Are Analyzing Social Media To Make Hiring Decisions

Remember Juli Briskman giving 'the finger' to President Trump's motorcade? Companies care about that kind of employee behavior.

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By Jennifer Spencer

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With social media becoming such a big part of our everyday lives, it's no surprise that employers are increasingly using social networks to research potential hires and gather more information than they would otherwise obtain during the interview process.

In fact, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and about 43 percent of employers use social media to check on current employees, according to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey.

Related: What You Should Be Looking at in Potential Hires' Social Media Posts

As with most things, the more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Here's a look at how companies are analyzing social media to make hiring decisions, and the impact that can have on potential candidates.

Having an online profile is important.

Some 47 percent of prospective employers said that if they couldn't find a job candidate online, they were less likely to call that person in for an interview. For the 30 percent of American adults who don't have an online presence, this could be an issue when they're job hunting.

"Employers do look at social media profiles to make hiring decisions, and can, so long as it does not violate federal or state anti-discrimination laws such as race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, etc.," Sergei Lemberg, managing partner at Lemberg Law, told me in a phone interview.

At a time when almost 70 percent of American adults have an online presence, it has become more of an expectation to be able to find everyone online. And employers are no different; in the CareerBuilder survey, employers said they expected candidates to have an online presence and that they typically gathered more information prior to calling a candidate for an interview.

Confirm the candidate's qualifications online.

Companies are no longer just pre-screening applicants through phone interviews and personality assessment tests; now they have social media profiles at their fingertips to take a deeper dive into the personal lives and previous job experiences of candidates. Information that once used to be private is now readily available to anyone willing to take a little time to dig around the web.

That way, ideally, a candidate's background listed online should match the qualifications he or she has stated on a resume or shared during the interview. That's what employers look for, and any discrepancy in this information can lead to potential employers questioning the accuracy of a candidate's resume.

Related: Why It's a Mistake to Rely on a 'Social-Media Background Check'

Furthermore, of those companies that have researched candidates online, 57 percent, according to the CareerBuilder survey, have found content that caused them not to hire candidates.

A professional online persona Is key.

While it's not constructive for companies to scour the internet looking for reasons not to hire someone, it is beneficial to ensure the candidate is a professional. What hiring managers should look for is anything alarming in a candidate's social profile or posts that could directly be cause for concern for the company. Specifically, that means anything that indicates the candidate may not align with the company's values or mission.

Candidates and employees, from their end, meanwhile, should make sure to be familiar with company policies, as they can differ from one company to another.

But what are the implications of using information that potential hires have shared in a non-work related environment without thinking about those posts' implications for a future job opportunity? Significantly reducing the applicant pool you, as hiring manager, have is one down side; you may have to eliminate too many candidates after you've peered into their personal lives.

"Basically, once you put something on the internet publicly, there's no expectation of privacy and an employer can use it against you unless doing so would otherwise violate law," Lemberg said. Job-seekers should keep that in mind and keep their personal social profiles, such as Instagram or Facebook, private. Meanwhile, they should maintain business social networks, such as LinkedIn or Shapr, making sure to update their skills, job history and affiliations with professional organizations.

"Lots of employers have workplace internet or social media policies to help deal with these issues," Lemberg added. "And employees have also been fired for posting social media content."

An example? Most of us remember Juli Briskman, who lost her job after she was photographed extending her middle finger at President Trump's motorcade last year. A photo of Briskman circulated on social media and went viral, so she brought it to the attention of her employer. The employer stated that she had violated the company's social media policy on obscenity by sharing the image on Facebook and Twitter. Briskman went on to sue her former employer for wrongful termination.

Related: How Recruiters Creepily Troll Social Media for Job Candidates (Infographic)

She was fortunate enough, however, to also see the positive impacts social media can have: She subsequently received thousands of dollars in donations and even new job offers following the news of her employer letting her go.

Jennifer Spencer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

CEO of Energent Media

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, a digital marketing firm for tech startups. She is passionate about helping brands leverage content to share their stories with the world.

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