Are You Using Social Media Correctly When Screening Applicants? Maybe Not

This past Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a New York City Council hearing over an Internet Privacy Bill that would keep employers from demanding access to an employee’s private social media account.

At that hearing was Sarah De Stefano, a Brooklyn Law School graduate, who said she was denied a job at an upstate New York government legal agency when she refused to add a background check investigator as a Facebook friend.

Using Social Networks to Screen Applicants

It’s no secret that employers use Facebook when screening applicants. According to an article published in The Huffington Post last year, researchers found that nearly 37% of the companies surveyed used social networking sites when screening applicants.

Here are some of things employers were looking for:

  • 65% looked to see if the candidate presented himself/herself professionally
  • About half looked to see if the candidate was a good fit for the company culture
  • 45% wanted to learn more about the candidate’s qualifications
  • 12% looked for reasons not to hire the candidate

In that process, 34% percent of hiring managers said they discovered something about the candidate that caused them to not get the job–the majority of which were related to inappropriate photos or info related to drinking or drug use.

Are Companies Looking for the Wrong Things When Using Facebook to Screen Job Applicants?

Still, it’s not entirely clear whether such behaviors reflect a prospective employee’s work ethic. A recent study conducted at NC State University shows that companies might want to rethink the way they use social media to screen applicants.

Researchers measured participants for personality traits that companies look for in job candidates, such as conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion. The participants were then surveyed on their Facebook behavior, in order to see which Facebook behaviors were linked to specific personality traits.

Their findings:

  • “People who posted references to drugs and alcohol were no less conscientious or no more conscientious than those who didn’t,” said Dr. Lisa Thompson, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the university.
  • Will Stoughton, lead author and Ph.D student at the university, concluded that “companies are eliminating some conscientious job applicants based on erroneous assumptions regarding what social media behavior tells us about the applicants.”

What This Means

Facebook and other social media platforms are great tools for employers–especially when it comes to recruiting. But, with the number of states now putting these Internet Privacy laws into affect, coupled with these recent findings, employers may want to rethink the tools they’re using (and how they’re using them).

What are your thoughts on using social media platforms when screening applicants? Should employers have the right to access private social media accounts? Let us know your thoughts by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter.