Can Social Media Really Reveal Good and Bad Hires?

July 10th, 2013 by David Rothschild Leave a reply »

hiring with facebookAfter favorably evaluating a job candidate’s resume, you look him up on Facebook. And there he is in all his age twenty-something glory – sitting in a hot tub, wearing nothing but a cowboy hat, looking as if he’s had way too many beers. Do you automatically toss his resume in the “No” pile and continue your search?

Your answer should be “Not always,” according to Shelley Dubois in her July 3 article on “Hiring Managers misuse (and misunderstand) Facebook” found at CNNMoney.

Dubois points to a recent study published in the monthly social networking journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Researchers assessed 175 university students on qualities like emotional stability and conscientiousness, and then asked them to examine their own Facebook pages for signs of substance abuse and badmouthing others.

Study Results

The study revealed that a tendency to badmouth others is linked to negative job applicant traits. However, the researchers also found that those students who may go overboard in posting photos and videos of partying with their friends tend to have extravert, or outgoing, personalities, which can be valuable in functions like sales and marketing.

The results of this particular study may be distorted because of the young age of the participants, as their FB posts tend toward impressing their peers. Also, because researchers asked them to self-report on their own FB posts, the students may have downplayed the negative material.

Standardize Your Process

If you routinely check social media sites like Facebook during the hiring process, it’s advisable to standardize your procedures so everyone involved in hiring performs the same steps. Although young people are becoming more adept at screening out uninvited eyes through their FB privacy settings, many are still available. Be consistent in reviewing applicants on social media – do it for all, or none.

The degree of tolerance you have for questionable Facebook postings depends on several factors, including your organization’s culture. You may be willing to go forward with a candidate who displays an inappropriate photo or two, but can you ignore discriminatory comments, signs of excessive drinking or any hint of illegal substances?

Implement Background Checks

While a few drinking photos may be harmless – having a background check reveal a potential employee’s criminal past is a clear red flag.  Not only do you need to hire competent employees who will help your company grow, but you need to make sure your company is a safe environment for everyone that works there.  Be sure to integrate background checks into any hiring process and make standardized decisions based on the results.

The advice to employers seems clear – don’t screen out job prospects based on their Facebook profile alone. Depending on your company culture, bring the qualified candidate in for a face to face interview, even if their Facebook page is less than wholesome.

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