Social Media Background Checks

by K B , updated on September 16, 2010

There is such a lot of talk around about social media background checks, where employers check your profile out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. But how many do, and how seriously do they take the information they can access, and more to the point, what are they actually looking for?

I recently co-authored “What do employers really want?” with James Evangelidis, a very good friend of mine. We were curious so we asked a few questions  of a number of employers we interviewed. Here’s what they said:

Employer 1

Q:  Do you check people out on social media and what do you think when you do?

A: “This is the big mistake of the younger generation. Everything is fair game and they need to learn that if I saw behavior that I felt didn’t fit with the team, or I discovered things about them that reflected negatively on their employer, or there is a pattern of behaviour that’s likely to lead to work performance issues, then they won’t be getting the job. People should assume that I am checking them out.”

Employer 2

Q: As part of your hiring procedure, do you routinely check people out on MySpace or Facebook?

A: No we don’t check

Q What if you became aware of something that was compromising an employee on a public forum?

A: “If it was a public facing position then we would have to talk to them about it because undoubtedly it could be seen publicly. To a degree what people get up to in their own time is up to them, but when that private persona interferes with that corporate requirement then there has to be an intervention, especially if they are representing the company as part of that corporate persona. Fundamentally I don’t really care. Can they do their job? Are they able to do their job? Will they do the job? Are they in a compromising position? If they are not part of the public face (or they are not seen as representing) the company, then I don’t have a problem with it.”

Q:  Do you check people out on social media and what do you think when you do?

Employer 3

A: “I wouldn’t want an employee’s personal life to be reflecting on the business, especially because we are a public company. For me it’s about having the right appearance….We check potential employees on Facebook etc. It’s really important people be aware of this because the internet is so powerful.”

Employer 4

A: “We don’t do those sorts of checks. If something came to my attention of course we would look at it. Then I think you would be bound to take those things into consideration, generally however I think these are a social tool, not a business tool.”

Employer 5

A: “No I have never thought of it, I will normally, depending how long they have been in their previous employment, ring up three of their previous employers.”

Employer 6

Q: What would you do if you found something negative about an employee on social media?

A: “I would put it on the table in front of them and ask them about it. You would at least give this person the opportunity to explain. We haven’t been checking these forums as a matter of course, but we are doing in more often, particularly with contractors or recruitment consultants.”

So what’s the point I am trying to make here?

Yes you will be checked out.

Always assume that anyone checking you out is making a subjective judgment– what some people thinks fits with the team, others may think is bad form.

Always assume that whoever is checking as part of a reference check will only have a partial picture of what you’ve been up to, good or bad. They will never know the context until they meet you, and depending what it is, they may not even be able to question you about what they saw to raise their eye-brows.

While by law employers are not able to discriminate, how would you know if you missed out on a job based on something they personally didn’t like?

You could liken this stuff to simple reference checking, but it is reference checking on steroids, given that employers can gather a lot more personal information than they’d ever be able to ask a referee.

On Thomas Shaw’s blog recently, he posted information about an application that will allow you to click to allow employers and recruiters access to your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. You could soon  find them soon on careers sites.

One click is all simple and convenient, but when friends can do things like post unflattering photos of you on the wild night of your high school break up, would you really want your Facebook profile to be your resume?


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

InterviewIQ July 13, 2010 at 11:14 am

#jobhunting. Are employers looking you up on FB?… What are they looking for?

tekiebelu July 14, 2010 at 2:00 am

RT @InterviewIQ #jobhunting. Are employers looking you up on FB?… What are they looking for?

susann_schupke October 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm

RT @InterviewIQ: #jobhunt #resume What do employers think when they read your facebook profile

InterviewIQ October 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

#jobhunt #resume What do employers think when they read your facebook profile

The unReal Eizabeth (@elizabethinkc) October 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

This is a great article. Feel free to share with your teams if you are in management. This could also reflect on…

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