Lindsay Olson

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Will Social Media Background Checks Soon Trump Resumes?


Traditionally, we’ve thought of the hiring process as one in which job applicants are judged based on their resumes, cover letters, professional appearances, references, and ultimately face-to-face interviews. With the rise of social media we’re seeing a new factor come into play for prospective employees looking to find a career: social media background checks. We’ve all heard stories about people getting fired for an untoward tweet or Facebook post.

Even before being hired, many applicants are rejected because of negative material found online. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly 70% of employers had refrained from hiring someone because of information found online. This could be in the form of blogs, photos, videos, and social media posts.

Social media background checks are now being packaged into services and employers will have to determine whether they think these services are efficient at choosing the most worthy job applicants. One such service, Social Intelligence, was approved by the FCC last year and has been implemented by a number of different companies.

Social Intelligence essentially mines a person’s social media profiles and creates a comprehensive document that flags and assesses racy material. Instead of focusing on credit scores or criminal backgrounds—though those may be pursued independently—SI paints a portrait of a job candidate based upon their social media activity. Hiring managers can then look at this information and make a determination. They can store this data in their archives for up seven years.

Regardless of how you view this practice ethically, it’s certainly worth both employers and job seekers taking note of the trend. In the near future, resumes and degrees will increasingly being competing with the online reputations created through social media. The implications of this are obvious: job seekers must do their own reputation management—similar to how companies monitor their brand online—to ensure that social media background check companies won’t be able to dredge up damaging material.

Yes, this means not posting pictures of yourself drunk or naked. It also means limiting the vulgarity you use. It is also certainly worth looking into your privacy permissions and making sure your social media accounts are locked to outside observers. That is, unless you want employers to see inside your profiles. If your material is squeaky clean and full of positive posts, this could be beneficial.

Hiring managers will also have to make sure that they are not overvaluing these background checks. Incidents and posts must be contextualized. A job applicant’s sterling job history, educational degrees, and skill sets should not necessarily be trumped by a propensity to post irresponsibly on social media sites. That said, cavalier online behavior is certainly a characteristic worth looking into, especially if your company deals with sensitive or highly classified material.

Photo credit: andercismo

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