A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 70% of employers use social media sites to research job candidates, and of those, 57% have found content that caused them not to hire candidates.

The national survey was conducted online on behalf of CareerBuilder by The Harris Poll between April 4 and May 1, 2018. It included a representative sample of more than 1,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes in the private sector.

Who's Checking and Why?

Broken down by industry, those in IT* (74%) and manufacturing (73%) are more likely than those in retail/non-retail sales* (59%) to do social networking digging on potential job candidates.

(* indicates small base size—less than 100; results should be viewed as directional.)

But it's not just the social sites that are fair game; 66% of employers say they use search engines to conduct their research on potential job candidates.

Nearly half of employers (47%) say that if they can't find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview. Twenty-eight percent say that’s because they like to gather more information before calling in a candidate for an interview; 20% say they expect candidates to have an online presence.

According to employers who use social networking sites to research potential job candidates, what they're looking for when researching candidates is:

  • Information that supports their qualifications for the job: 58%
  • If the candidate has a professional online persona: 50%
  • What other people are posting about the candidate: 34%
  • A reason not to hire the candidate: 22%

Problematic Content 

Employers who found content on a social networking site that caused them not to hire a job candidate said these were the primary reasons:

  • Job candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or information: 40%
  • Job candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 36%
  • Job candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc.: 31%
  • Job candidate was linked to criminal behavior: 30%
  • Job candidate lied about qualifications: 27%
  • Job candidate had poor communication skills: 27%
  • Job candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee: 25%
  • Job candidate's screen name was unprofessional: 22%
  • Job candidate shared confidential information from previous employers: 20%
  • Job candidate lied about an absence: 16%
  • Job candidate posted too frequently: 12%
Ideally, social media screening of applicants should be transparent and disciplined.

Positive Content

On the other hand, those that found content that led them to hire a candidate said it was because they saw:

  • Job candidate's background information supported their professional qualifications for the job: 37%
  • Job candidate was creative: 34%
  • Job candidate's site conveyed a professional image: 33%
  • Job candidate was well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests: 31%
  • Got a good feel for the job candidate's personality, could see a good fit within the company culture: 31%
  • Job candidate had great communications skills: 28%
  • Job candidate received awards and accolades: 26%
  • Other people posted great references about the job candidate: 23%
  • Job candidate had interacted with company's social media accounts: 22%
  • Job candidate posted compelling video or other content: 21%
  • Job candidate had a large number of followers or subscribers: 18%

On-the-Job Monitoring

Employers continue to monitor employees' online presence even after they're hired.

Nearly half of employers (48%) say they use social networking sites to research current employees—10% do it daily.

Further, a third of employers (34%) have found content online that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee.

Avoid Legal Pitfalls

While social media posts can provide valuable insight into job candidates’ qualifications and suitability for a position, CBIA HR Counsel Mark Soycher offers a cautionary note for employers who may rely on a jobseeker’s online content as a screening mechanism.

"Ideally, social media screening of applicants should be transparent and disciplined," says Soycher.

Otherwise, he points out, employers could face accusations that their social media screening is:

  • An invasion of privacy—a search not authorized by the candidate, or one where information was obtained from a non-public source
  • Potentially discriminatory—only conducted when job candidates belong to certain protected class categories
  • Unrelated to the job—and the skills, knowledge, and demeanor required for successful performance
  • Erroneous—for example, where an individual is the target of an online smear campaign with false, unflattering information posted in their name by someone who wishes to do them harm

“A formal social media screening policy and procedure can ensure documentable results that are relevant, properly applied, and not potentially illegal to consider in hiring—e.g., an applicant’s age, race, religion, or medical history,” says Soycher.