Recruiters are urged to stick with evidence-based strategies instead. Source: Unsplash/Mateus Campos Felipe.

Harvard Business Review

Why you should stop screening job candidates’ social media profiles

Harvard Business Review
Business Advice
6 minute Read

Social media sites such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram have given many organisations a new hiring tool. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers check out applicants’ profiles as part of their screening process, and 54% have rejected applicants because of what they found. Social media sites offer a free, easily accessed portrait of what a candidate is really like, yielding a clearer idea of whether that person will succeed on the job — or so the theory goes.

However, new research suggests that hiring officials who take this approach should use caution: much of what they dig up is information they are ethically discouraged or legally prohibited from taking into account when evaluating candidates — and little of it is predictive of performance.

In the first of three studies, the researchers examined the Facebook pages of 266 US job seekers to see what they revealed. Some of the information that job seekers had posted — such as education, work experience, and extracurricular activities — covered areas that organisations routinely and legitimately assess during the hiring process. But a significant share of profiles contained details that companies may be legally prohibited from considering, including gender, race, and ethnicity (evident in 100% of profiles), disabilities (7%), pregnancy status (3%), sexual orientation (59%), political views (21%), and religious affiliation (41%). Many of the job seekers’ profiles also included information of potential concern to prospective employers: 51% of them contained profanity, 11% gave indications of gambling, 26% showed or referenced alcohol consumption, and 7% referenced drug use.

“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,” says Chad Van Iddekinge, a professor at the University of Iowa and one of the study’s researchers.

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