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Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Oct 21, 2021 09:26 PM

CareerBuilder survey discovered that 70% of employers cruise your social media platforms to uncover more insights into whether you are a good fit for their team or not. Add to this staggering fact, the whopping near half (43%) of employers who use social media to "check-in" on their employees, and one third who have used what they've discovered about their employees on social media to fire them.

A recent piece by Harvard Business Review entitled, "Stop Screening Job Candidates' Social Media," asks important questions about the legaility of employers using social media as a part of their screening process for potential hires. As outlined by Chad Van Iddekinge, a Professor at the University of Iowa and one of the CareerBuilder study researchers, “You can see why many recruiters love social media—it allows them to discover all the information they aren’t allowed to ask about during an interview. But that’s a problem, because one of the hallmarks of legal hiring practices is that they focus on behaviors within the work context. There should be a clear distinction between what people do during work and what they do outside of it.” 

The fact is when we opt-in to use social media, we also opt-in to revealing finer details about ourselves, according to algorithms and 'the internet' that are not necessarily within the scope of what employers need to consider, or should legally consider, when determining a new hire's "fit." Frankly, we all know that social media is, ironically, a very non-social way of maintaining a social presence and, sometimes, just a persona that we want to convey. Our decisions to be 'social' or 'make friends with' social media are also (conscious or unconscious) decisions to provide people who want to learn more about us another avenue to do so - albeit an avenue that is very surface level. Though employers are likely well-intentioned, or as HBR puts it: "to yield a better idea of whether that person will succeed on the job" (that's you), they can likely also see information about candidates that they shouldn't know when considering a new hire. Information, like pregnancy news, political views, sexual orientation, and, even things as ridiculous as  your use of profanities online.

Sadly, this process that 70% of employers are apparently leaning into is counterintuitive to hiring the right candidate on multiple levels. In truth, studies have shown that long-term fit beyond the skills and the experience you bring to an organization, is also about:

  • the right leader,
  • goals,
  • ground rules,
  • communication, and,
  • accountability.

You can't "see" any of those qualities in a candidate by checking in on their social media, can you?

Social media has its benefits. It keeps us, well, social (and it's also an excellent creative outlet)! However, as a candidate, you should know that sometimes a friend can also be a foe (more on this soon). Employers are using social media to get a more comprehensive glimpse into your candidacy and fit for roles on their teams - whether you like it or not. The discussion on the legality of this will continue to evolve, but right now: it's happening! When looking for a potential role within a company, it never hurts to make your social media accounts a little 'less social' by enhancing your privacy settings - at least, for now.