Flirting with trouble: Fine line of social media screening

by 29 Nov 2011

According to new research more than a quarter of Australian employers use social networking sites to ‘screen’ job candidates – and almost half admitted to turning down a candidate based on their Facebook or Twitter content.

However, the Telstra Cyber-Safety research also revealed that over a third of Australian employers who screen social profiles have hired applicants based on positive things they have seen on their social networks.

Darren Kane, officer of internet trust & safety at Telstra, said that the research findings coincide with the reminder that as we head into the festive season, silly or drunken posts, photos and videos may amuse some, but can also lead employers to make judgment calls that affect careers.

Although currently there are no laws in Australia prohibiting the research of a candidate on social network sites, other countries are currently taking steps to outlaw the practice.

Guy Cary, managing director Australian and New Zealand at recruitment screening firm First Advantage, said that venturing down the path of social media checking can be a slippery slope, and there are ethical issues to consider, namely, privacy and discrimination.

“Some may argue that not checking social networking sites during the hiring process is negligent. However, the bottom line is, if employers choose to use this method to screen employees they should approach with caution,” Cary said. (Related article: Social Network Media, Discrimination &The Legal Implications for Recruitment)

According to the findings, some of the biggest mistakes candidates make include posting inappropriate pictures (31% of employers said this is looked upon unfavourably) and posting discriminatory comments (37%).

Telstra’s research also revealed:

  • More than half of bosses reject ‘friend’ requests from employers, and three in five employers reported that ‘friending’ employees blurred the line between professional colleague and friend.

  • Top social media behaviours counting against applicants included posting negative comments about their workplace (with 44% of bosses saying this counts against job candidates) followed by discriminatory posts (37%) and posts which contained confidential information (32%).

  • 18% of employers use social networking connections to make sure employees aren’t posting derogatory comments about themselves or the company,and 15% do so to keep an eye on employee productivity and activity during work hours.

  • One in five employers proactively ‘friend’ their staff on Facebook.

  • Facebook is the biggest social network screener with 41% of bosses who screen applicants via social media reporting they check Facebook pages, followed by LinkedIn profiles (31%) and Twitter feeds (14%).


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