As I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, social media scanning is a common practice among recruiters. While the hard copy resume and the cover letter are both well and good, a candidate can never be too careful of what his or her social media history is saying. Every tweet, status update, shared link, tagged photo, and soap box rant is spun together to create another impression of who someone “really” is. Some recruiters (roughly 25%) choose to ignore social media for their recruiting purposes. But to the large majority, social media is one more way to filter candidates (or to discover them) before spending any money to interview, to relocate or to hire.
Though a different type of recruitment, a story recently broke about how one young man’s Twitter feed absolutely changed the course of his future. Yuri Wright was known for being one of the top-ranked high school cornerbacks of last season. Wright was being heavily courted by several schools, and had an offer on the table to play for Michigan. That’s right—he was being courted. After his Twitter feed blew up with “ill-advised comments” and derogatory statements, he was not only dropped from Michigan’s list, he was also expelled from his conservative preparatory high school in New Jersey. He blasted the extreme locker room talk across his feed and it didn’t take long for the comments to bruise his image and take away his chance of being a part of the nationally-ranked Wolverine pack.
Despite this kid’s on-the-field stats, it was his online conduct that counted in the end. No matter how good his highlight reel and resume showed him to be, he couldn’t escape who he had shown himself to be to his 1,600+ Twitter followers (and to the Michigan recruiters).
In the same right, employees and job seekers have to be more mindful than ever of their online activity. The resources available to hiring managers and recruiters are endless. Is all this research really legal though? As I also mentioned a few weeks ago, there are emerging laws on this type of candidate (or employee) screening. Some information is permissible for use in either terminating or choosing not to hire someone, while other information like disability or religion is not. Many companies are creating their own social media policies so that the gray area around social media use becomes a little more black and white.
Do social media background checks happen? Absolutely. Can they be regulated? Sort of. As we all know though, once viewed, some things just can’t be un-seen or un-read. So, to any employee or job seeker who is worried about being discounted because of their social media presence, I’d pass along the old adage that “the best defense is a good offense.”