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Keep It Clean: Social Media Screenings Gain in Popularity

Keep It Clean: Social Media Screenings Gain in Popularity
Credit: Twin Design/Shutterstock

Think twice before ranting about your boss on Twitter or posting drinking photos from your weekend on Facebook. It could cost you your job. According to a CareerBuilder study, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen job candidates before hiring them, up from 60 percent in 2016 and 11 percent in 2006.

Many employers are also going a step further. Nearly 70 percent of hiring managers are using online search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to research candidates as well.

Hiring managers look at social media accounts for various reasons, but many employers want to make sure the candidate will be a good fit with their company. "Because we tend to view our personal social media accounts as being 'personal,' there's a good chance that by viewing someone's profile, you'll get a glimpse into their personality beyond the resume," said DeeAnn Sims, founder of SPBX.

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While the fear of having something embarrassing or negative discovered might tempt some job candidates to completely erase their online persona, employers say that strategy can backfire for many job seekers.

One-quarter of hiring managers expect candidates to have some sort of online presence, and nearly 60 percent are less likely to call someone in for an interview if they can't find them online.

“Whether it's intentional or not, this always feels like you have something to hide,” said Sims. “Either you've specifically taken steps to make sure you can't be found, or you're using a childish byname – neither of which feels very professional.” [Looking for a background check service? Here are our best picks of the year.] 

Despite what job candidates might think, most employers aren't scouring the internet looking for reasons to not hire them. Most employers are trying to find reasons to hire someone.

The CareerBuilder study found that 61 percent of employers conduct social screenings to look for information supporting a candidate's qualifications for the job, 50 percent want to ensure the candidate has a professional online persona, and 37 percent want to see what other people are posting about the candidate. Just 24 percent of those surveyed check social media to search for reasons not to hire someone.

Having their social media pages investigated has paid off for many job seekers. The research shows that 44 percent of hiring managers found content on a social networking site that caused them to hire the candidate. Specifically, 38 percent said they found information supporting the candidate's professional qualifications, 37 percent discovered the prospective employee had great communication skills and 36 percent were impressed with their professional image.  Additionally, 35 percent thought a candidate displayed excellent creativity.

To learn more about what to post online to optimize your job search, read this Business News Daily guide.

While they might not be searching for anything negative, more than half of those surveyed said they have found something during their social screenings that led them to not hire someone. The leading types of posts and behavior that left employers with a bad impression include:

  1. Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information.
  2. Candidate posted photos of themselves drinking or using drugs.
  3. Candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion.
  4. Candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employees.
  5. Candidate lied about his or her qualifications.
  6. Candidate had poor communication skills.
  7. Candidate was linked to criminal behavior.
  8. Candidate shared confidential information from previous employers.
  9. Candidate's screen name was unprofessional.
  10. Candidate lied about an absence.
  11. Candidate posted too frequently.

Professionals shouldn't ease up on ensuring their online presence is a positive once they land a job. The study found that 51 percent of employers use social networking sites to research current employees. Of those, 34 percent have found content that caused them to discipline, or even fire, an employee.

The study was based on surveys of 2,300 hiring managers and human resource professionals across a variety of industries and company sizes in the private sector.

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon and Chad Brooks. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Saige Driver

Saige Driver graduated from Ball State University in 2015 with a degree in journalism. She started her career at a radio station in Indiana, and is currently the social media strategist at Business News Daily. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.