Screening Candidates on Facebook? 3 ways this affects hiring

By Adam Robinson,
January 15, 2014

Earlier this week, NBC News covered a story about how “social media screening puts [a] company at greater risk of getting sued,” and according to the research cited in the article, makes your business look bad.

If you log into Facebook every time a new candidate applies for your job, are you thinking about the consequences that could result? Most hiring managers who scope out candidates on social media sites assume their investigation will affect their hiring decision, but what if the candidate knew you were Facebook “creeping” on them?

The research cited in the article contained several exercises where candidates were told their social media accounts had been looked at before their interview. In the first exercise, “two-thirds of online job applicants who had been told that their Facebook accounts had been reviewed for “professionalism” said the practice was an invasion of privacy that reflected poorly on the company doing the screening.”

The second exercise asked candidates how they would react if they were told they got the job or didn’t get the job and then told about the Facebook screening. 60% thought less of the company doing the screening. Is it worth a declining candidate pool, just to look at an applicant’s Facebook?

“Elite job prospects have options, and are more likely to steer clear of potential employers they don’t trust,” said Lori Foster Thompson, the professor who conducted the research and co-wrote the paper. Probably best to avoid social media screening unless you want your opinion to be a factor in the hiring process.

Here’s 3 ways screening candidates over social media could affect hiring:

1. You might find something incriminating

A qualified candidate applies for your job and before you bring them in for an interview, you check their Facebook. Despite being qualified with a good resume, the candidate has some interesting photos posted on their Facebook account. These photos are incriminating and cause you to think twice about bringing them in for an interview.

In the end you decline the candidate.

What if the candidate is actually a very hard worker who could bring innovative ideas to your company? Should a few photos of the candidate online cause you to deny a qualified applicant? In this circumstance, social media screening is definitely affecting the hiring process.

2. They might catch you

Have you ever scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed and accidentally “liked” something? While screening an applicant, you could potentially get caught, either by accidentally “liking” something on their page or making it known in other ways that you are on their social media site.

How will it look to this candidate if they see that you have “liked” a photo on their timeline? Most likely they will be creeped out.

Like it was said above, if a candidate doesn’t trust you, you can bet they won’t accept a job offer. 

3. You might let your opinion get in the way

Facebook is a way to express your opinion online. If you are screening a candidate and see that they enjoy everything you hate (see: sports teams, music choices, political references) you may subconsciously or purposefully decline a qualified candidate.

How will this affect your hiring process? Well, you are now missing out on a great hire because of your own opinion. Don’t let your opinion get in the way, avoid social screening unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Want to use social media in a positive way for hiring? Download our guide to social recruiting!


About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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