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

Many companies screen candidates on social media. Here's what you need to be paying attention to.

learn more about Serban Enache

By Serban Enache


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Given that there are 3.03 billion active social media users and that people have an average of 5.54 social media accounts, social media is now an important part of the hiring process. Seventy percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring, according to a survey conducted for CareerBuilder by Harris Poll.

Related: 3 Ways to Be Constantly Recruiting Star Talent Through Social Media

Employers can learn a huge amount about potential hires from social media. From family pictures to weekend hobbies to professional blog posts, people share troves of information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others that can be a goldmine for employers looking to get beyond resumes. However, sorting through all the noise and irrelevant content to identify the useful nuggets of information can be tricky. Most potential hires won't have obvious red flags, so employers need to read between the lines.

Here are three things employers should look for on social media when searching for the perfect candidate.

1. The "authentic" self

Job candidates always put their best, most professional foot forward in formal applications and job interviews. They emphasize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, and it can be tough to get a genuine read on who a person is from a cover letter or an interview. Even references, which provide some insight, are not always helpful. Candidates are only going to include references they know will be positive, and a previous employer may not be looking for the same qualities as you are.

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

Social media is where people share who they are, or at least, who they want others to think they are, in a fairly intimate (yet public) way. LinkedIn is business-centric, but other social media platforms are where people display their personalities, opinions, likes, dislikes and the way they navigate the world. If a candidate seems very argumentative on Twitter or behaves childishly on Facebook, that doesn't necessarily mean he behaves the same way offline, but it does provide a glimpse into his interior life. Properly attributing credit when using images that are not your own, such as those from stock photo sites, blogs or online search engines, is also important, as it avoids plagiarism on social media. The separation between internet "self" and real-world "self" grows narrower every day.

Just as these platforms can help spot potential problems, so can they demonstrate that someone could be a good fit. For example, if someone is applying for a role as an event planner, photos of events she has organized posted to her social media could help reinforce her employment experience.

2. Business outlook

It's increasingly common today for people to use social media for professional, as well as personal, purposes. People are writing blog posts on Medium, sharing articles on Facebook and engaging in conversations on Twitter as part of their work life. A well-established aspect of modern careers, especially for younger hires, is the need to build a personal "brand." Employers can learn a lot about how potential hires view their skill set, their role, their industry and more from these types of content. Reading things they've written or articles they've shared can indicate whether a candidate aligns with a company's values and culture. It can also provide insight into their attitude. Do they tend to be positive and excited about work? Or negative and prone to complaining?

Social media is also a valuable resource when preparing for an interview. If potential hires for a HR position have engaged in discussions around diversity and pay gaps, asking them about specific points they've made can bring an interview to a deeper level.

Related: How to Hire Without Spending a Fortune. (Hint: Use Social Media.)

3. Qualifications and references

Social media can help employers flesh out things they read in candidates' job applications or validate things they've said in a cover letter. For a potential hire who claims to have a large network or strong communication skills, employers can look to social media to back up those claims. Resume "padding" is not uncommon, so employers can use social media to see if the information employees stated in their application matches up with what they said online. It's a tool for vetting and due diligence.

Social media can help employers locate "backdoor references" as well. If hiring managers or team leads have a mutual connection with a potential hire, which is not unusual within industries, they can reach out to their contact for an assessment. A backdoor reference may provide a more candid, accurate perspective than someone a candidate handpicked.

Using social media to evaluate candidates is no longer considered snooping. Anyone applying for a job today should go in with the expectation that his or her social media presence is fair game for employers. Social media can help employers get a sense for who candidates are, whether that matches who they say they are and whether they'd be a good fit for a job. It is important to remember that privacy is crucial, and not everything is public, so whatever you see on a candidate's account is exactly what he or she wants you to see. Though employers don't want to pry into candidates' private lives, it would be wrong to overlook the public message that the person has chosen to convey about themselves. Of course, more traditional forms of the hiring process, like resumes and interviews, remain central, but social media can help recruiters get beyond polished candidates to see the "real" people underneath.

Serban Enache

CEO and Co-Owner of Dreamstime.com

Bucharest-based Serban Enache is the CEO and co-owner of Dreamstime.com, one of the largest stock photo communities in the world. He previoiusly co-founded Archiweb.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law
Money & Finance

7 Ways to Make Extra Income Even With a Full-Time Job

Want to make more money? Real estate investing, Amazon ecommerce and the sharing economy are waiting for you.

Business News

Carnival Cruise Wants Passengers to Have Fun in the Sun — But Do This, and You'll Get Burned With a New $500 Fee

The cruise line's updated contract follows a spate of unruly guest behavior across the tourism industry.


Improving Yourself Takes 9.6 Minutes of Work Each Day

Micro-habits are the antidote to a chaotic world, offering a pathway to sustainable change.


How to Bring Your Franchise to the Next Level With Marketing Automation

With the impacts of inflation and associated costs of running a business, automation is a powerful solution for streamlining a positive guest experience and overall marketing.

Growing a Business

How to Outpace Your Competitors During a Recession

Here's how you can use economic uncertainty as an opportunity to grow your business and stand out among your competitors.

Business News

TikTok Influencer Reveals She Makes $350,000 a Month on OnlyFans. 'Absolutely Unreal.'

When Tara Lynn promoted her OnlyFans page on TikTok, she saw her income more than double.