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Screening Job Seekers on Social Networks: How Far Is Too Far?

The days are gone when a hand-delivered or snail-mailed resume is enough information to decide whether or not hire a job applicant. Just as the Internet has changed the way we distribute job postings, so too has it changed the way we recruit and screen job seekers. Google an applicant’s name and dozens, hundreds, or thousands of impressions might show up. Head over to the Big 3 social networks and find even more information. But what should you do with it all?

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Just like a superhero, with great power comes great responsibility. It turns out there is such a thing as too much data. Understanding when to collect social media data and when to go bare-bones is critical.

Are You Totally LinkedIn?

Casting a job announcement to the LinkedIn world might get you flooded with responses. Some of the candidates will be great fits while others will be completely out of left field. In order to distinguish between the two, it’s important that you focus on the right things.

It’s obvious to browse the prospective employee’s work and education history to make sure it’s a match. Beyond this, look for credible recommendations and endorsements, past projects, writing samples, and other professional work. Also take note of the type of updates the person posts. Is he posting about professional and industry-related topics? Or is he using this professional network to broadcast unprofessional content?

Speaking of professionalism, what does the person’s photo tell you? Has he even taken the time to add a photo? As appearance is highly subjective, be sure you stick to gauging the professionalism of the photo rather than the person’s looks.

Playing Sherlock

When you’re charged with filling an important position, you might feel inclined to use whatever means are at your disposal. If you keep with the national trend, you’re likely Googling short-listed candidates and searching for them on Facebook. Again, how you react to what you find is going to be subjective. Humans have their biases and are prone to making snap judgements, so be aware of why you feel the need to discard or hire a candidate.

Fairness can be somewhat bolstered by committing to conduct the same level of investigation for each candidate and by holding every candidate to the same standards. Do you notice that one person’s grammatical mistakes on Twitter make you cringe, while another person’s are forgivable? Ask yourself why that is.

(Related: How Your Social Network Profiles Can Help You Get Hired)

Beyond the Initial Screening Process

Questions of social media extend beyond the initial candidate screening process. It recently came to light that candidates have lost out on a position after refusing to hand over their social media passwords during an interview. This is a controversial topic that is being taken seriously by state governments throughout the country, and it’s something that should be addressed clearly within HR and talent acquisition departments. If you’re a decision-maker in a state where asking for passwords is banned, then you need to communicate with your personnel to avoid lawsuits; if you’re a decision-maker elsewhere, then you need to decide how far is too far when looking into candidates’ online personal life.

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About the Author
Carly is a writer who is constantly looking to expand her portfolio. She has a wide variety of interests and loves writing about anything and everything (even biotech vapor compression). She loves that blogging allows her to share her writing with people all over the world.

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Rachel Dotson is a former digital marketing manager and former blog contributor at ZipRecruiter. She is based in Venice, California.

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