The Huge Gap Between Candidate Expectations And Employer Reality In Social Media

Sep 2 2010 in Hiring Managers, Networking/Social Networking, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

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The article “Should You Search Social Media Sites for Job Candidate Information?”, provided views of a gap between candidate expectations and employer reality, when it comes to social media.

While the article itself was interesting (I’ll include some quotes), the comments were fascinating!

It was amazing to see the disconnect between candidate expectations vs the reality of employer/recruiter actions.

The article was published by American Express and posted on Facebook by Mashable, the leading website regarding social media news, asking employers/recruiters their thoughts on using social media to screen candidates.

Candidates Expect One Thing, But Employers Use Social Media Differently To Source Employees

The article asked the question:

“If a candidate applies and you don’t know a lot about them, should you do a little detective work via social media?”

The article itself included quotes from a lawyer, the CEO of a HR technology firm and a staffing consultant for Microsoft. They all gave carefully constructed answers, clearly approved by legal teams first, that basically said to look at social media – but only for things that are relevant to their jobs, not their personal life.

For instance, the CEO shared “This doesn’t mean companies should look up everything on the candidate and use those vacation pictures or personal tastes to judge if that person is a good candidate for the job. It’s important to remember our private persona is very different from our professional one. If someone writes she likes wine, that doesn’t mean she’s going to drink wine at her desk.”

In addition, the Microsoft staffing consultant stated “When researching a candidate’s applicable skills in relation to a specific job it should not matter what they have been doing in their free time, on their vacations, or over holidays. What is important is their ability to perform the appropriate tasks in relation to the position.”

While the article gave “safe” answers, look at the unscripted answers that employers and recruiters gave in the comments to Mashable’s Facebook post. These answers are a realistic window in how employers and recruiters really use social media to do detective work on candidates.

Check out these Employer Comments (names removed, all else direct quotes including typos):

  • It has lead me to WISH I had based my decision off of it. 😀
  • You have to!
  • I did when we were hiring interns. Definitely helped us decide against some candidates.
  • Great information! I agree being a former HR Director and Healthcare CEO!
  • I am a recruiter and you BET I use FB to check out potential candidates. M hit the nail on the head with her rule of thumb…
  • Whoa– newsflash! The internet? It’s PUBLIC! So if you don’t want people to see your info, set things to the highest level of privacy you can set to and don’t have 1439 of your closest “friends” hooked into your pages, as you never know who your friend of a friend is. You can rest assured that when I owned a staffing agency every single candidate was searched out on social networking sites as well as Google searched. It was a GREAT indicator of overall common sense.
  • yeah i do
  • we can still see you even in privacy ,theres really no hiding like you may think ,just be honest and you don’t need to try
  • It’s fantastic way to know his thinking before hiering
  • Everyone’s responsible for what they put online about themselves
  • even better – view your social media communities/platforms (the ones you’ve built & curated for your own unique needs) as a way to broadcast the varying facets of your professional & personal self!A candidate who has endearing social media profiles will subtly compel recruiters and potential employers to call you for an interview.Candidates who demonstrate their ability to use social media in a mature, efficient and endearing way are PRE-SELLING themselves to potential employers (buyers) – you’re offering them what they’re asking for, plus a bonus in some free social media expertise (if you decide to be the world expert on your industry on social media, you can be).
    • you are literally proving your ability to adapt and learn the latest technologies on your own
    • you suggest a powerful network of contacts, visible in your Facebook friends (profile should be linked to LinkedIn and Twitter)
    • what IF the recruiter sees you are “friends” with an important politician who’s policies affect your industry?
    • What IF the recruiter sees you are “friends” with a wide variety of vendors in your industry?
    • What IF you are ALREADY Facebook friends with the person who will interview you, and be your boss — do you think you might be more comfortable preparing to meet with them, when you’ve previously participated in interesting online discussions with them?
    • What IF the online discussions you have solve a problem or answer an urgent question for someone in your industry? When they need to hire for that role, IF you’ve kept yourself and your expertise top of mind in online communities, they’ll be coming to you!

    Of course, respect all privacy and confidentiality, but seriously, if your are NOT using Facebook for your own professional benefits then you won’t be one of the millions of people who are using Facebook for their own professional benefit.

    When God was handing out the ability to use social media profiles for professional gain, you chose to refuse that gift? If you complain about your business, and you are not using social media for the benefit of your business, but you are on Facebook, you are a schmuck.

    Facebook IS THE NEW Yellow Pages – Free to advertise in, even if I move or change numbers or tell my cell co to take a hike, I still maintain all my personal & professional contacts on a Facebook dashboard I’ve customized for my unique privacy needs.

  • yes I do. specially now I’m looking for community managers
  • a big YES
  • Germany just started discussing to forbid this… but why? It’s a great way to see whether or not a job candidate fits in your personell structure.
  • YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did you notice that every single employer/recruiter comment talked enthusiastically about how social media is a great tool to see behind the resume and get a better idea of who the candidate is?

Not even one employer/recruiter said they don’t use social media to check candidates. Further, the employers/recruiters who responded suggested they use social media to the fullest extent possible to get a better idea of how a candidate would “fit”.

Compare this to candidate views:

What Do Candidates Expect About Employer Use Of Social Media?

Now let’s compare candidate expectations of how employers use (or should use) social media to check backgrounds. Notice any differences? …

About 2/3 of the candidates were either naive or upset about employer use of social media, while about 1/3 had a realistic view that they should expect their social profiles will be checked by employers/recruiters.

A few of the really smart ones were enthusiastic, because they modeled their social media profiles to help them find their next position.

  • this is way I use the privacy features on facebook, and do not allow anyone I do not know to become my friend on any social site. I think it’s dispicple that any employer would invade someone’s privacy. If your not allowed to ask it in an interview then your not allowed to go search for it on the web.
  • My employer (HeadBlade) did… and now I have a job:)
  • It’s tough when you work in social media… because you want your employer to see that you are very active on social media. However, you sacrifice your privacy. So far it hasn’t been an issue, but I’m sure if I were to ever switch into another industry or career it might be.
  • I think this is dangerous. I mean who doesn’t act different outside work? Just bc I post I went out drinking last night until 5 am, doesn’t mean that I’m a drunk or irresponsible. Also what if I’m super conservative and I see my top candidate is a Democrat? I think this is a very touchy thing and can lead to hiring for the wrong reasons.
  • Rule of Thumb: If you don’t want someone to read it, DON’T POST IT.
  • God help me if employers know a way around Facebook’s privacy features. I’m a different person on social sites than I am in real life – it’s where I let off steam and feel free to be a complete idiot. To judge me by that – to have it be the determining factor for employment – would be unfortunate.
  • if my activity on social media websites leads to a NO regarding a job, probably the employer is not suitable for ME. :-)
  • I’m with you A. What I put on my facebook page isn’t necessarily always the truth. But how are employers able to crack the privacy? I only ‘share’ with friends.
  • The Internet is a totally public place… It’s surprising just HOW public–I agree with Missy above… only write in social media places what you wouldn’t mind others reading–or use another place to communicate–or let off steam… potential employers are definitely checking people out on it!
  • you guys need to learn how to use the privacy settings.
  • J, I do as well. I once believed in the old concept of “reasonable expectation of privacy,” especially if it was promised by the site, but we’re learning that websites change their minds, lie, or get hacked. So what may have once seemed a reasonable expectation certainly isn’t now, not even in “private” blogs.
  • a few years back when Myspace was the only social network…. i had gone for a job interview for an online marketing company, the directors checked my myspace page and saw photos of me hooliganning around drunk going down a flight of stairs with an office chair. Not a good first impresssion, however it did show character and i did get the JOB. sooo…. the lesson is ………. perhaps make your social network profile employer friendly?
  • I’m beginning to think if I look for a job i should search the manger and recruiter FB profiles! I once blasted someone on Twitter for sharing the name of someone she chose not to hire because she did not like her email address. For those t…hat use FB in hiring decisions…how do you do that? what’s your criteria? I think its funny because it can be taken so out of context. If I used FB in recruiting – I’d think I’d use it to analyze consistency about interests etc. But that said, I think its kind of studid. It’s like companies think they are so smart for checking us out on FB….but its actually pretty sleezy on their part…well that and limited. There are plent of other places to find info online about people.
  • it’s an idiotic notion to think that anything online would be (or would have EVER actually been) private, regardless of what the ‘privacy policies’ of said sight claim to be. if you don’t like someone reading it: don’t post it. DUH!
  • How about you show me yours and I’ll show you mine?. . . while I kind of agree with this, because I google people all the time but then again their livelihood does not depend on my findings (I rationalize it as a safety issue when making new friends), I do not think an employer “owns” you. In most cases, they pay you to do job for a certain talent, for a certain time of your day, that’s it. I agree with S on that. But I also agree with M too, when in doubt don’t. But there are some jobs, like say with the CIA, or similar special responsibility/clearance/sensitive types of jobs where this type of probing is necessary. . . For example, a teacher or preist who has a public profile with them doing innappropriate things with a minor should definitely have that count against them (well anyone really and charges drawn as well). . . But an employer who sees you partying with your buddies – or pictures of you in your bathing suit from a beach trip – that’s innapproriate of the employer to feel they have the RIGHT to investigate you at that level and the right to that information. . . So how about this – if an HR person wants to see your stuff, they have to show you their’s first.. . sounds fair to me.
  • Anyplace that’s going to that much trouble to “check up” on me, isn’t the kind of place that I want to be working for.
  • Can someone please explain to me how, if my facebook privacy is set to “friends only”, a stranger can view my facebook page?
  • they shouldn’t be able to but they can click on friends who don’t have privacy settings and check out what they are up to and make assumptions about you unfortunately.
  • Wouldn’t recommend it. Isn’t work performance enough to get a paycheck anymore?
  • because the information is there, i guess people will take advantage of it. whether it’s for jobs, stalking, etc. the problem is not about whether one should or should not review one’s social networking sites when considering someone for a job/etc. ….. the question is whether the data should be so openly visible in the first place.
  • And we wonder why unemployment is so high…any employer can have pie-in-the-sky expectations that are so unattainable for anyone and blame it on social media. What a neat-o idea! /sarcasm
  • I have searched potential employers and expect they will do the same. I dont believe it is much different to the time When our communities were smaller and people actually talked to others regarding the traits an employee may hold.
  • I was hired party due to the fact that I have a strong Twitter profile and have built a very nice personal brand for myself. I only used Twitter not FB, my FB is private.
  • Whoa! Why do u need to bother abt social life…jus leave that to them…
  • Picking into their personals lives to find out if they fit the job criteria… Ethical or not?
  • I’ve never seen much personally useful information on that subject.
  • 69 companies in France sign a policy about not using social media in recruting, the policy is supported by the national association of HR Directors
  • Perhaps I can get a job as an editor since I know the difference between lead and led. Haha!
  • I don’t post anything online that I wouldn’t want an employer to see, because EVERYTHING is permanent! Facebook privacy features may help you now, but they are always changing privacy controls. And one day, you may regret something you posted years ago.
  • If you are visible enough on the Internet to make or break a hiring decision, you are doing it wrong.

Readers – How do you feel about employers and recruiters using social media to assist in candidate background checks?

I’d appreciate hearing views of employers/recruiters as well as what candidates think.


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