Should you be looking at the social media profiles of people you are considering hiring? The simple answer is yes – but there’s a but…

Most recruiters these days will use google and social media to not only reach out to potential job seekers, but also to do a quick informal “background” check on the candidates they are considering. If you are hiring, we definitely recommend doing the same.

Why?

Let’s be honest, the person you met at interview was hopefully the most professional version of themselves. But once you take away the on-my-best-behaviour persona, what are you left with? Unfortunately we can’t always rely on others to be completely honest about their past or circumstances. So this is where social media profiles and google searches on candidates can help fill in the gaps.

Where should you be looking?

First stop and the easiest way to get started is by doing a simple google search. Type in the person’s name and their location and their social media accounts e.g. Facebook, Twitter or Instagram should pop up, along with anything else attached to their name online. Keep an eye out for articles or news items that mention your candidate (but also make sure it’s talking about the right person!). Remember that google tends to serve up local information first, so if they have lived or worked overseas, don’t forget to include that location/s in your search so you don’t miss anything.

Also take a look at LinkedIn. If they have a profile set up, check to see if their employment history matches their CV. If anything’s missing, dates are different, or doesn’t quite seem to be adding up, ask them about it!

What to do if you find something concerning?

Depending on what it is, you have two options. You can discuss what you have seen with the candidate and give them an opportunity to either explain themselves or remove the offending material. This could be a wakeup call for the candidate and a lesson learned in terms of what they make available online.

Or you can politely thank them for their time but advise that their application has been unsuccessful. This really only works if they haven’t progressed further than the initial application stage. Otherwise most people expect specific feedback as to why they are not progressing. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing up what you have seen online this could put you in a tricky spot.

But…

It’s incredibly important to remember that you can’t discriminate based on looks, age, gender, ethnicity or religion. Doing a social media search is not the way to determine who is going to look “good” at your organisation. The only thing you should be keeping an eye out for is controversial/inappropriate material. Go into this exercise with the mind-set of: if I hired this person, and then a client/customer/stakeholder saw that information, would it negatively impact my organisation?

You also need to be consistent – if you are going to check the social media profiles for one person on your shortlist, you should do it for all. Otherwise you are opening yourself up to biases and putting your applicants through an unfair process.

What else can you do?

Make sure your employment contracts include a clause around online behaviour and make it very clear what is and isn’t acceptable. This will help protect you going forwards if any inappropriate online content is brought to your attention regarding one of your staff members.

Navigating the hiring process can be difficult. That’s why we are here to make your life easier by running the recruitment process on your behalf! We are also here to support you through your hiring decisions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team today!

Best wishes,
Kirsty and Nikki

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