Having been in the executive search business since 1986, I am very familiar with methods for vetting candidates. Besides the usual reference checking, credit and criminal investigative reports are being conducted by outside agencies mostly for executive level candidates but even more junior rank potentials are now being checked.
In this world of technology we live in, other methods are being utilized now including reviewing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The New York Times recently posted an article about this called “Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle”. The article discusses one start-up company that scans the Internet looking for information on potential candidates going as far back as 7 years! They review the more popular sites like LinkedIn but also try to find comments, videos, and photos on more obscure sites like Tumblr, Yahoo groups, and Craigslist.
This practice is widely used. According to this article, about “75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates. And 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online.”
So what can you do especially when it is considered almost necessary to have a LinkedIn profile and a Facebook page? LinkedIn is a business networking site so the only area that could be a problem is the recommendations section. Make sure you edit any recommendations and also have another person read it so nothing will be misconstrued. In other words, what you think sounds fine may be to an objective person very troublesome. In addition, be careful who you link with. One recruiter I know will scan the connections list to ascertain what types of people the candidate interacts with.
Facebook is more tricky and needs to be monitored even more carefully. Although many people have their settings for only friends and family, many companies are now asking for candidates to show their Facebook page during their interview. I checked with two employment attorneys regarding this and they say it is not legal to do that but most candidates will comply or face not being considered for the position. Carefully review what your contacts are saying and “unfriend” or “block” them if they are posting anything that is not acceptable. Stress with your children that their postings can reflect badly on you and that they need to watch not only what they say but how they say it.
Recently I facilitated a workshop on personal branding. We discussed Facebook and how things can be misinterpreted. As an example, I participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and raise money through Facebook. Someone questioned that a potential employer may think I have breast cancer or someone in my family and will pass on my candidacy for medical reasons.
Even more importantly be extra careful with tagging. Being tagged in a photo is fun, however, if there is alcohol, drugs, nudity, etc. this will be a knockout as part of the interview process. According to this same article, one man posted many pages of himself with various guns and would never be considered for employment opportunities. If there are too many mentions of goofing off on the job or complaining about their coworkers or employer that will be a quick way for a recruiter to move on to the next candidate.
Employers do have to be cognizant about what information they will consider and what is not necessary or illegal. Recruiting practices need to be outlined thoroughly so there is no room for misinterpretation on what is acceptable in determining the viability of a person’s candidacy. I have heard in my workshops that some candidates are pushing back and not willing to partake in a social media background check. They feel that this is personal information and not indicative of their job performance. Whatever your views are just be wary of what you post and what others post as well. Others are definitely watching you…
By E. Elizabeth Carter
Carter Consultants Ltd.