Anyone who has been on the hunt for a job in the last decade has likely been given the same cautionary warning: As soon as a hiring manager picks up a resume, their first order of business could be to sweep the applicant’s online footprint.
This warning isn’t just an urban myth: It's estimated that 70 percent of employers check candidates’ social media profiles. While hiring managers may only be looking to screen and ensure the right company fit, the search could expose other things.
Social media use has exploded over the last decade, with the majority of users accessing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat multiple times every day. Given the massive volume of time we spend using these social sites — as evidenced by the discovery that Facebook users still spend about 950 million hours on the platform each day — we set out to discover how much of a candidate’s social media can affect the job search.
We surveyed 820 job applicants and 603 hiring managers to better understand what content can hurt an applicant’s chances of getting an interview, which social platforms recruiters consult most often, the content they were able to dig up, and much more.
Although LinkedIn is specifically intended for professionals, the majority of recruiters preferred gleaning candidates’ information from Facebook. Boasting almost 1.5 billion daily active users, Facebook had the attention of 85 percent of recruiters when it was time to fill a job opening. Sixty-six percent also used LinkedIn, while Twitter and Instagram were tied at 40 percent apiece.
By taking a glimpse into people’s publicly showcased personal lives, 52 percent of recruiters discovered less-than-perfect spelling and grammar. Another 45 percent stumbled upon photos of excessive partying, and 32 percent reported having come across provocative photos.
Evidence of excessive partying was the indiscretion that cost the highest number of candidates an interview (26 percent).
Screening per platform
Technology was the only sector that relied more on LinkedIn than Facebook for social sleuthing. When accounting for industry, Instagram and Twitter hardly made an impact: neither social network surpassed 10 percent interest from hiring managers across each of our surveyed industries.
Meanwhile, Facebook nearly swept the board: 70 percent of hiring managers surveyed in health and medical care scoped this network for candidate clues, as did 66 percent of hospitality recruiters and 60 percent in construction.
Social profile double takes
After giving a candidate’s social profile the once-over, the majority of hiring managers came back for round two. The average recruiter consulted social media profiles 2.2 times each, although there were some nuances to that number depending on the industry.
Those hiring for manufacturing positions were the most stringent with online verification, having visited the same profile nearly three times, on average, before making a call. Information and data services clocked 2.8 views per profile, while hotel and hospitality had 2.7.
Wholesale and retail recruiters rounded out the list by checking candidates’ profiles 1.6 times. Even though many tech companies are notorious for conducting difficult job interviews, hiring managers in this domain conducted just 1.8 profile views on average.
Drawing the line
Searching through people’s Facebook profiles is an act so ubiquitous that it’s earned its own nickname: “Facebook stalking.” However, in a world where our private lives are becoming increasingly public thanks in large part to social media, it’s understandable that more people are beginning to rebuild the divide between what’s personal and what’s share-worthy.
Sixty-six percent of respondents said the main reason why they didn’t want employers leafing through their social media accounts was that they wanted to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Work/life balance has become an increasingly important issue in its own right, so it seems only natural that people have begun to realize that too much world-blending can take a toll.
Another 52 percent were worried an outsider might draw false conclusions about their personality based on social media alone. Given how much people’s online and offline personas can vary — even if they are both “real” versions — there can be quite a divide when so much curation is involved.
Facebook was the platform the majority of applicants would not want a hiring manager to see by a fair margin. Snapchat and Twitter trailed behind at 13 and 12 percent respectively, but Facebook came out on top at 40 percent.
Accounts under wraps
It’s no surprise job seekers named LinkedIn as the social profile they would be most willing to share with a potential employer: 90 percent said it would be their preference. Next up was Google+ with 64 percent of respondents saying they would have no problem sharing this type of profile with a recruiter.
Sixty-one percent of candidates would feel comfortable sharing their Pinterest account, with Facebook close behind at 59 percent. Respondents were the least willing to share their Tumblr account at just 28 percent: this may be due to a tendency to share more sensitive content under cover of anonymity. No respondents listed Reddit as a platform they were comfortable sharing.
The flip side of the coin
Just like hiring managers and recruiters poke around candidates’ social media profiles, the tables can easily be turned. Sixty percent of job applicants checked out their interviewers’ profiles before an interview, a move that is often listed among pre-interview best practices.
However, even if something questionable or unfavorable turned up during their search, 79 percent of candidates said their discoveries did not stop them from pursuing a position or an interview with the company. Getting a job can be hard enough as it is, and many job seekers may be willing to overlook certain factors that are less-than-ideal in favor of being employed at all.
Online spring cleaning
Polishing the contents of your social media is often simple, but it may take a little time. So instead of leafing through a decade of embarrassing old photos, for instance, 57 percent of respondents decided to make their profiles private instead.
Another 20 percent deleted photos that depicted excessive partying, and 19 percent removed or edited posts that had poor spelling or grammar — smart moves, given our survey found these to be the top two reasons for not being granted an interview.
In today’s highly politicized social climate, 16 percent of respondents decided to remove any evidence of their political views from their social media accounts.
As our data indicates, the way we portray ourselves online really does matter. Put simply, there is a very good chance that a job candidate’s social media profiles will be checked. As the largest social network out there, Facebook was a hot topic for hiring managers and candidates alike: recruiters leaned on it more than any other platform for background insights.
While your HR team is hard at work screening potential candidates, you can trust Paychex to help with the heavy lifting. We understand the pressures HR managers and business owners face when hiring top talent and the impact social media can have in the search. Our services offer payroll and HR solutions that support your hiring efforts as well as many other helpful resources, so you can focus on what you do best. Visit Paychex.com to get started on a path to easier employee screening on anything from background checks to other ways of vetting potential candidates quickly and confidentially.
We collected responses from 820 job applicants and 603 hiring managers via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Fifty-five percent of job seekers were women, and 45 percent were men. Our hiring managers were 49 percent women and 51 percent men. Our job seekers ranged in age from 18 to 78 with a mean of 35 and a standard deviation of 11. Our hiring managers ranged in age from 19 to 78 with a mean of 36 and a standard deviation of 10.
No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory, and future research should approach this topic more rigorously. The data we are presenting relies on self-reporting. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.
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