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Keep It Clean: Social Media Screenings Gain in Popularity

image for Twin Design/Shutterstock
Twin Design/Shutterstock

What you post on social media could have serious repercussions on your professional life. It could cost you your current job or job opportunities in the future.  

According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and about 43 percent of employers use social media to check on current employees.

Managers look at social media accounts for an array of reasons, but many employers want to make sure a 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 something embarrassing or negative being discovered might tempt some job candidates to completely erase their online persona, employers say that strategy can backfire.

About half of employers – 47 percent – said they wouldn't call a person for an interview if they can't find them online. More than a quarter of employers say it's because they like to gather more information before calling a candidate, and 20 percent say it's because they expect candidates for have an online presence.

"Whether it's intentional or not, this [not having a profile] 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 not to hire them. Most employers are looking for reasons to hire someone.

The CareerBuilder study found that 58 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 34 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. Specifically, 37 percent of hiring managers said they found information supporting the candidate's professional qualifications, and 33 percent were impressed with their professional image. Additionally, 34 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 (57 percent) said they have found something during their social screenings that led them to not hire someone. According to the survey, these are the leading types of posts and behavior that left employers with a bad impression:

  1. "Job candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information: 40 percent
  2. Job candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 36 percent
  3. Job candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc.: 31 percent
  4. Job candidate was linked to criminal behavior: 30 percent
  5. Job candidate lied about qualifications: 27 percent
  6. Job candidate had poor communication skills: 27 percent
  7. Job candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee: 25 percent
  8. Job candidate's screen name was unprofessional: 22 percent
  9. Job candidate shared confidential information from previous employers: 20 percent
  10. Job candidate lied about an absence: 16 percent
  11. Job candidate posted too frequently: 12 percent"

Professionals shouldn't ease up on ensuring their online presence is a positive once they land a job. The study found that 48 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 more than 1,000 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 received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media strategist for Business.com and Business News Daily. She also writes reviews and articles about social media. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie.