Nearly Half of US Employers Use SocNets to Investigate Candidates

September 9, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech

Nearly half (45%) of US employers say that they now use social networking sites to dig up information about job candidates, a significant jump from 22% last year, according to a survey commissioned by CareerBuilder, which also found that another 11% of employers have plans in the works to start using social networking sites for screening.

The study, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, confirmed that as social networking grows increasingly pervasive, more employers are using these sites to screen potential employees.

Top SocNets for Screening

Of those who conduct online searches/background checks of job candidates, 29% use Facebook, 26% use LinkedIn and 21% use MySpace, the survey found.? One-in-ten (11% ) search blogs, while 7% follow candidates on Twitter.

Top Industries for Screening

Not surprisingly, the top industries most likely to screen job candidates via social networking sites or online search engines include those that specialize in technology and sensitive information: Information Technology (63% ) and Professional & Business Services (53%).

Why Candidates are Rejected

After they’ve conducted such a search, more than one-third (35%) of employers report they have found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate, CareerBuilder said.

The top examples for rejecting a candidate based on social network information:

  • 53% of survey respondents rejected candidates because they posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information.
  • 44% passed on a candidate because they saw content related to the person drinking or using drugs.
  • 35% rejected candidates because they bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients.
  • 29% disqualified a candidate because the person showed poor communication skills.
  • 26% rejected a candidate because that candidate made discrimatory comments on a social networking site.
  • 24% rejected a candidate because that person lied about his/her qualifications.
  • 20% did not hire a candidate because social media revealed that person had shared confidential information from a previous employer.

Smileys, Shortcodes No-Nos in Job Applications

The survey also found that 14% of employers disregarded a candidate because the candidate sent a message to them using an emoticon such as a smiley face, while 16% dismissed a candidate for using text-message language such as GR8 (great) in an e-mail or job application.

Why Candidates are Hired

Social media can be a positive influence in the job search, CareerBuilder said, noting that in many cases job seekers are encouraged to leverage social media when advertising their skills and experience. To this point, 18% of employers report finding content on social networking sites that caused them to hire a candidate.

The top examples of hiring a candidate based on social networking information:

  • 50% say a candidate’s profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit.
  • 39% say a profile supported candidate’s professional qualifications.
  • 38% say it showed a candidate is creative.
  • 35% say? a candidate showed solid communication skills.
  • 33% say it showed a candidate was well-rounded.
  • 19% were impressed that others posted good references about a candidate.
  • 15% say it demonstrated that a candidate received awards and accolades.

“Social networking is a great way to make connections with potential job opportunities and promote your personal brand across the internet,” said Rosemary Haefner, VP of HR at CareerBuilder. “Make sure you are using this resource to your advantage by conveying a professional image and underscoring your qualifications.”

Haefner also recommended that candidates work to build a positive image online by cleaning profiles up before a job search, networking through professional groups, keeping gripes to a minimum, monitoring what others say about them, and keeping content positive and professional.

About the survey: The survey was conducted online within the US by Harris Interactive on behalf of It was fielded between May 22 and June 10, 2009 among 2,667 hiring managers and HR professionals (employed full-time; not self-employed; with at least significant involvement in hiring decisions; non- government) ages 18+.

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