Social media screening (aka social screening) has become an almost commonplace recruiting and hiring practice. Employers are “googling” job candidates and searching social networking sites as part of their pre-employment background checks, and admissions counselors and coaches are using similar practices to make acceptance decisions about prospective students and athletes.
Results of a recent CareerBuilder study indicated that over half of the employers surveyed rejected applicants because of their social media content. Reasons included the obvious, like posting inappropriate photographs, information about drinking and drugs, and criminal behavior, to things that may not seem to be deal breakers, like poor communication skills and “unprofessional screen names.” The study found that social media activity worked in candidates’ favor as well, by demonstrating things like well roundedness and creativity.
A similar study, focused on college admissions, was conducted by Kaplan Test Prep in the summer of 2013. Although the percentage of admissions offices engaging in social media screening was not as high, they are also on the rise. A related article in the New York Times reveals that the reasons to reject – and accept – students based on their social media activity are similar to those used by employers (and be sure to check out the comments – almost 600 of them – to see what readers had to say about the practice).
College coaches also use social media to evaluate recruits. As with job candidates and college applicants, the classic “knowledge, skills, and abilities” combination is increasingly not the only criteria by which people are being evaluated and judged. Off-duty conduct (where permissible by law), as well as general communication (what you say, how you say it, and where, plus what you share) often provide additional insights into whether to accept or reject an individual.
I was recently interviewed for an article entitled “How Social Media Content Hurts Job Seekers,” which prompted me to consolidate and update the guidance I’ve previously shared about the practice of social media screening into a free white paper, available via the Denovati SlideShare channel. This guidance is primarily focused on job candidates and employers, but it can be applied to students, athletes, admissions offices and coaches as well.
Though not everyone will agree with my conservative approach, I think it’s best to err on the side of caution. Please let me know if I’ve missed or misrepresented something. I welcome other people’s insights, healthy debate, and questions. The more we talk about these issues, the faster we’ll come to consensus on a set of best practices that are practical, legally defensible, and ethical. Since I am in the US and this post is written from the US perspective, I especially welcome input from folks in other countries.