Social Media: How Much Does it Matter?

Recently, at Code Talent, we had a candidate who was rejected from a position due to their social media presence. While the candidate had made it very far in the process, with weeks of work and interviews, certain posts on Twitter made the company question the cultural fit. While we are unable to disclose any more information, the incident sparked a conversation in the office: should personal social media accounts matter in the hiring process? 

The office was split. Some thought that since the candidate made it so far through the interview process, their personal opinions and posts should not matter, it should come down to his ability to do the job. Others understood the company's reasoning: the posts were public, and showed a high possibility of the candidate not fitting well into the company's values and culture. 

While it may seem strange that a few tweets can deny one a job, social media screening by hiring managers is becoming more and more common. According to a recent Career Builder survey, 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. This is up 10% from last year's same survey. The most popular employers to screen candidates? Information and Technology services. 

Employers aren't looking for reasons not to hire someone, they're often looking to get to know a candidate outside of the application materials. Chief Human Resources Officer at Career Builder, Rosemary Haefner, said: "tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of what candidates are like outside the confines of a resume or cover letter." While interviews are the traditional way to get to know a candidate outside of these documents, social media is a resource for employers to see how candidates are portraying themselves to the world. Employers want to see that candidates are projecting a professional online persona.  

But, what does it mean to "project a professional online persona"? Well, employers are looking for information that supports the job qualifications, personal communication skills, and, maybe most importantly, a culture fit. Jana Galbraith, Vice President of People and Culture at LiveStyle, said 

"If I came across views expressed that seemed to be racist, biased, misogynistic, or something else suggesting personal views that are counter to our company culture and philosophy, we would be inclined to pass on someone."  

With the heavy emphasis on company culture these days, the research doesn't come as much of a surprise. Companies are looking to strengthen their team and culture, and anyone that could be a potential threat to that is less likely to get the job, no matter their skillset.  

Keep your online image professional, and keep it alive! 57% of employers are less likely to call a candidate into an interview if they can't find any information about someone online, up from 41% last year. We suggest keeping your blog, portfolio, or website updated and consistent with your current industry or desired industry. Additionally, make any profiles that are used for sharing opinions or photos with friends and family private. Keep them up, keep your personal description and photo clean and professional, but hide the posts that could convey the wrong message. 

The top reasons found for not hiring a candidate after social media screenings included: 

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or information. 
  • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs. 
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. 
  • Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee. 
  • Poor communication skills. 

Information employers have found on social media that turned out to be an advantage to the candidate: 

  • Candidate background information supported job qualifications. 
  • Candidate's site conveyed a professional image. 
  • Candidate's personality came across as a good fit with the company culture.
  • Candidate's site conveyed a professional image. 
  • Candidate is well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests. 
  • Candidate had great communication skills.