Employers urged to look beyond glossy social media profiles

by Iain Hopkins17 Sep 2012

A new survey has revealed that while recruiters often ask to view Facebook pages and Twitter activity during interviews, the picture they reveal is not necessarily accurate – putting the onus back on employers to delve deeper.

The survey of over 120 Australian and New Zealand HR managers, conducted by Nuage Software, has revealed that 28% of employers ask to view Facebook feed during job interview, while 74% refer to LinkedIn profiles and 3% use Twitter. More than half conduct a Google search.

David Wilson, managing director of Nuage Software, said that job seekers tend to cast themselves in a good light across all their social networks.

“Whether it’s a blog or a tweet, candidates are more aware than ever that their image and reputation are at stake,” Wilson said.

"Employers need to use specific screening questions and psychometric profiles to get a better picture of the applicant's skills, qualifications, experience, attitudes and interpersonal strategies."

Over 50% of respondents said that resumes only provided quality information ‘sometimes’.

“This is not surprising, as resumes are primarily a marketing tool designed to get the applicant into the interview,” Wilson said. “They typically contain enhancements, exaggerations, omissions and even lies. Often the resume is written by third party professionals and laced with keywords to trick resume-scanning software.”

Similar to resumes, LinkedIn profiles are primarily a marketing tool for job seekers and attract a raft of how-to training programs and advice.

“However, unlike the resume, the LinkedIn profile is subject to wider public scrutiny and may therefore contain less exaggeration and enhancements,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that recruiters need to use well-designed, specific screening questions to uncover information that may be absent or obscured in a resume.

Steve van Aperen, commonly referred to as ‘the human lie detector’, told HC that while psychometric testing is a valid tool, the most effective tool for eliciting information is actually the interview.  

“In psychometric testing some respondents can and often do use answers or responses they think the interviewer is looking for,” van Aperen said. “In interviews, however, you’re dealing with a person who should be trained at looking for conflict and contradiction in answers and whether the person is answering the question or being evasive and deflective. I often say that good interviewers are more than simple ‘question askers’ but are analysts of human behavior.”

A competent interviewer should also be able to differentiate a person who is nervous (a normal reaction when people are uncomfortable, fearful, doubtful or uncertain) from a person who is deceptive. “An interviewer needs to determine the reasons for that nervousness,” van Aperen said. “Are they nervous about the interview itself or are they nervous about being exposed in a lie because that are fabricating? Usually nervous people will answer your questions whereas deceptive people will sidestep the question, answer with another question, be evasive, dismissive or deflective altogether.”

Steve van Aperen provided a list of key clues to look for during an interview:


  • Is the person answering your question or sidestepping the issue altogether?
  • Is the person answering the question with another question or deflecting?
  • Is the person omissive, defensive, dismissive or evasive (behaviors that are often associated with avoidance).
  • Is there conflict or contradiction between what a person is saying and what their body language is doing (eg. nodding their head in the affirmative while denying something)?
  • Is the person using concealment, blocking or masking gestures such as a hand covering the mouth or face whilst talking?
  • Are verbal statements accompanied by contradictory non-verbal cues of doubt eg. shrugging of shoulders.
  • Is the person slow to respond to a straight forward question (buying time in order to configure a response), changing their tone, uhmming and ahhing?
  • Is the person creating distance, disassociation or separation in their story eg. No use of pronouns denoting ownership.
  • Is the person exhibiting micro expressions or distress signals such as anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, contempt or surprise that are out of context or incongruent with what they are saying?
  • Do your questions induce a change in the behavior of the person you are interviewing?
  • Is the person blaming their poor memory by making statements such as “I don’t remember”,  “I'm not sure” or “I can't recall”
  • Is the person making succinct and clear denials or making objections eg. "Did you steal that money?" and the response is “No, I didn’t” as opposed to “Why would I do that” or “I don’t need to steal money” or “I’m not that kind of person” or “It’s wrong to steal”.  The last statement is a view or opinion but not a denial.


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  • by David Als 17/09/2012 2:56:02 PM

    So of the 120 Companies surveyed, 28% pause the interview to ask the candidate to log into their feed so they can peruse their updates? Can I remind said Companies (personally I don't think this stat has any credibility) what happened when this occurred in the US earlier this year, the response fromFacebook AND the response from Congress?

  • by Judy Higgins 19/09/2012 1:34:15 PM

    Unless you are trained to read non-verbals like some of those stated above you could make some very false conclusions. Any employer who bases an appointment on the applicants social media profile has got rocks in his/her head. Social media is a ridiculous way to hire employees.

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