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Why Recruiters Should be Social Media Screening Candidates

By November 17, 20116 Comments

There are a number of ways that social media commentators, writers and bloggers can encourage people to share their online content.  Often all it takes is a title that includes the words “Social Media”, “Recruitment” and some random number, as in “5 Reasons to…” or “10 Best Examples of…” or “7 Biggest Mistakes in…” etc.  Next thing the article has been skim read and shared to such a ferociously viral extent that the Tweet button or Facebook Like button to the side of the article is ticking upwards like milliseconds on a stopwatch.

This particular example has done the rounds more than most in recent weeks and has really caught the attention of the recruitment and job seeking communities alike.  At the time of writing the piece has been Tweeted over 7000 times and shared on Linked In over 4000 times.  Fabulous news for Reppler, a business that helps job seekers or career builders manage their online image across social networks, who’s initial investment surveying just 300 “hiring professionals” for this infographic has proved to be smart money indeed, for all the free advertising their work has engendered.

I’m surprised also at the amount of people expressing concern or dismay at the fact that 91% of those surveyed admitted to using social media to screen candidates.  This hand-wringing worthiness no longer has any place in this digital information age.  Surely everyone now understands that what they put out there into the interweb is content that will be there forever, and usually accessible to anyone wanting to view that information.

I would go as far as to say that any recruiter NOT having a quick look at the online fingerprints of their prospective placements is failing to provide their clients with a thorough enough service.  It is widely accepted best practice to conduct verbal references on all placed candidates, and in some cases, for some roles, also proper to conduct further probity checks on educational qualifications, criminal checks and even drugs tests.

So why would you do all that and still decide it improper to have a quick check into someone’s publicly available online presence?

When 1 in 6 US job seekers found their jobs through social media (78% through Facebook) and increasingly compelling data being released extolling the virtues of recruiting through Linked In, it is clear that social media is an ever-growing phenomenon that simply cannot be ignored by the recruiting and employment sector.

As a job seeker you also need to be acutely aware of this, so here is my advice to you:

1.  Think about what you are putting out there into the social networking sphere. If you really must post your drug-taking, binge-drinking, toilet-heaving photos then best to closely monitor your Privacy Settings.

2.  If a prospective employer does decide not to offer you a position based upon not liking something they have seen on your online presence then feel glad.  You have narrowly avoided working for a close-minded Luddite intent on moulding you into a corporate clone with no personality or life outside of work.

Have a good weekend everyone!


Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Dave Barber says:

    Hi Jon,

    Great article read with interest. It reminds of a situation
    I found myself in a situation about 2 years ago. I had a candidate who on paper
    looked great, and after talking to him I was convinced he could do a job for my
    client. He was based overseas so a face to face interview was impossible within
    the time constraints we had. I was aware that my client occasionally looked at
    individuals profiles on varying social media sites. I asked the candidate if he
    had a profile on any sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn etc. he advised that he
    was on Facebook and I asked him if there was anything a wee bit ‘dodgy’ by way
    of photos etc. His answer was a blatant, ‘No it’s all fine’.

    I checked him out and his bloody profile picture was him,
    stoned off his head, with a huge spliff in his gob.

    Unbelievable; just unbelievable.

  • Stewart Farr says:

    Perhaps its just New Zealand. But I am finding the opposite. More than often I get called up and asked question over the phone as if the 7 pages in my CV contained my whole life story. Yet a simple google search of my name, my email etc would show how little they know about me……then they seem shocked when I add them on linkedin before the conversation has ended *shakes head*

    Great article. Hopefully some people learn about how to screen a candidate via web before the 101 pointless questions (because its already public information).

    • Karen says:

      Stewart, I understand your frustration with being asked questions that seem annoying because the information is already public, but what’s happening when you’re being contacted is not simply verification of that information … it’s most likely already been decided that you are eminently suitable or qualified “on paper or cyberspace”.  I’m sure you know this, but what’s happening is that you’re being “screened” as you’re speaking to determine if you can a) hold a conversation, b) intelligently articulate your skills, and c) expand further on all those things about your personality and career goals that can’t be captured in a screenshot.  There’s so much more to a person than their CV or google presence and a good recruiter will never rely on that alone.

      • Stewart Farr says:

        I completely agree. But it does concern me a little as I am fortunate enough to have changed my ways to being a vocal extrovert. However most of the fantastic minds I have come across are complete introverts. Hard working, head down tail up, introverts. How do you expect them to react? They may be the perfect candidate but not a) hold a conversation, b) intelligently articulate your skills, and c) expand further on all those things about your personality and career goals……..they may have to put that on paper for you 😉 Chances are if you have to ask 101 questions of the candidate…….you probably don’t know the role well enough to ask the crafty 5 that could seal the deal. 
        One line from a movie I will never forget (but the title leaves me):
        “How many $100 bills could you fill this room with?”
        “With, or without us in here?”….. 🙂 ……”Your hired”

  • Seth O'Meara says:

    1.  Think about what your recruitment consultant is putting out there into the social networking sphere. If they really must post their drug-taking, binge-drinking, toilet-heaving photos then best to closely monitor the performance of your recruitment consultant.
    2.  If a prospective recruitment consultant muppet does decide not to offer you a position based upon not liking something they have seen then feel glad.  You have narrowly avoided working with a close-minded Luddite recruitment drone with no personality.

  • Anon says:

    agree to screen, but only after having already met the candidate.  There are alot of common names in social media (you might just get the wrong person)!