Social media screening: tread carefully rather than not at all?

by 16 Apr 2012

According to the latest research figures, 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.

According to Cyber-Safety research from Telstra, 31% of employers looked unfavourably upon candidates posting inappropriate pictures, and 37% looked unfavourably upon candidates posting discriminatory comments. However, the 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.

Like anything, social media screening has its pros and cons. “Some may argue that not checking social networking sites during the hiring process is actually negligent,” Guy Cary from recruitment screening firm First Advantage said. “However, the bottom line is that if employers choose to use this method to screen employees they should approach with caution.”

Although currently no laws in Australia prohibit the research of a candidate on social network sites, other countries are currently taking steps to outlaw the practice. Cary added that venturing down the path of social media checking can be a slippery slope, and ethical issues like privacy and discrimination are easy traps to fall into.

Research highlights

  • More than half of bosses reject ‘friend’ requests from employees, and 3 in 5 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 – 44% said this count against job candidates. 37% cited discriminatory posts as unfavourable, and 32% said posts which contained confidential information was a cross against a candidate.

  • 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 (41% of bosses viewing applicants’ walls), followed by LinkedIn profiles (31%) and Twitter feeds (14%).


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