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Online persona vs. resume – which wins?

July 7, 2017

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A recent survey by CareerBuilder reveals that 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring.  Just one year ago that number was only 60%.  Is a person’s online persona becoming as important as their resume?

While LinkedIn is a site candidates typically direct potential employers to, other sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are generally considered personal social sites not intended for potential employers’ eyes.  Yet more and more employers are looking at these “personal” sites to gain insight on candidates.  Three in 10 employers have someone dedicated to the task.  They are looking for:

  • Information that supports their qualifications for the job: 61%
  • If the candidate has a professional online persona at all: 50%
  • What other people are posting about the candidates: 37%
  • For any reason at all not to hire a candidate: 24%

In addition to looking at social media sites, 69% of employers are googling a candidate’s name to see what they find.  This is up 10% from 2016.  More than half (54%) of employers have found content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate.  Some of the main reasons for deciding not to hire included:

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information: 39%
  • Candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 38%
  • Candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion: 32%
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee: 30%
  • Candidate lied about qualifications: 27%
  • Candidate had poor communication skills: 27%
  • Candidate was linked to criminal behavior: 26%
  • Candidate shared confidential information from previous employers: 23%
  • Candidate’s screen name was unprofessional: 22%
  • Candidate lied about an absence: 17%
  • Candidate posted too frequently: 17%

There is fine line of too much or too little when it comes to one’s social media profile.  Candidates with no online presence are 57% less likely to get called for an interview.  But it’s not all negative – 44% of employers have hired a candidate based on their positive social profile.  The primary reasons a candidate was hired based on their social profile include:

  • Candidate’s background information supported their professional qualifications: 38%
  • Great communication skills: 37%
  • A professional image: 36%
  • Creativity: 35%

To keep yourself safe from legal risk when utilizing social media to screen candidates, SHRM offers the following suggestions:

  • Never ask for passwords.   There are varying laws on this.  To be safe, employers should look only at content that is public.
  • Have HR do it. It is best if someone in HR, rather than a line manager, checks candidates’ social media profiles. The HR professional is more likely to know what he or she can and cannot consider.
  • Look later in the process. Check social media profiles after an applicant has been interviewed, when his or her membership in protected groups is likely already known.
  • Be consistent. Don’t look at only one applicant’s social media profiles.
  • Document decisions. Print out the page containing social media content on which you base any hiring decision and record any reason for rejection, such as bad judgment. This protects you if damaging content has been deleted by the time a decision is challenged.
  • Consider the source. Focus on the candidate’s own posts or tweets, not on what others have said about him or her. 
  • Be aware that other laws may apply. For example, if you use a third party to do social media screening, you are probably subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (and similar state laws). Also, some state laws prohibit adverse action based on off-duty conduct, except under narrow circumstances.

By 2025, Millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Given that this generation has grown up actively communicating via social media sites and electronic devices, the use of social media is a workplace trend that is here to stay.  HR professionals shouldn’t ignore it, but should be careful to use it wisely.

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