Employer’s using social media in hiring process: Why do they do it?

Employer’s using social media in hiring process: Why do they do it?

Wood, Anna. (2017, November 27). Social media hiring process [photo]. 

There was a time when Facebook did not exist, and the way to impress your potential employer was to have a well-put together resume with outstanding qualifications. During this time, employers made their hiring decisions based on meeting with the potential employee during an interview discussing their resume. Today, this is not merely the case. Sure, a well-put together resume is crucial for landing a job, but it is not the only aspect employers are seeking when looking for employees.

In 2015 alone, 84% of job recruiters were using social media to seek out job candidates, almost a 30% increase from 2011 where 56% of recruiters were using social media (Elejalde-Ruiz, 2016). As the internet becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, it now has an effect on if we land that job we want or not. According to Amie Lawrence, an expert in validation of psychological assessment tools, employers are looking through social media to see if the candidate would be a poor fit rather than a good fit. In fact, 51% of employers surveyed by careerbuilder.com chose not to hire candidates based on the content they posted on social media (Lawrence, n.d.).

Social media was created to allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Vaast & Kaganer, 2013). One of the most common social networking sites, Facebook, was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and is one of the largest social networking sites among college students (Steinfield, Ellison, & Lampe, 2008). Originally used by college students, it is now a social networking site that is used worldwide to connect with friends and family as well as gain social capital. According to university professors Humphreys, Kanowski, & Pape (2013) the symbolic dimension of prestige and social identity questions why people use technology to define their social identity. Along with technological advancements such as the mobile internet, it is easier than ever to share information with an online audience. Photos can be uploaded, statuses can be updated, and users can communicate with others on social networking sites anytime of the day, regardless of where they are at by using their cellphones, tablets, and now even wearable technology such as watches that can reach the mobile internet. It makes sense that social media/social networking sites are being used as a common tool for job recruiters in the search for the right candidate. Social media is a way to get a first impression on people, without actually meeting them first.

Why do employers use social media in hiring decisions?

Westfrisco. (2017, May). [photo]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/p-2353347/?no_redirect

So why do employers use social media as a way to get a first impression on employees? It’s simple. Because they can. Most recruiters are motivated by the organization they work for to seek out candidates that have the skills and personalities that will be beneficial (“Learning about prospective,” 2012). It’s like recruiters are being paid to “online stalk” candidates prior to meeting with them, or even contacting them. Job seekers are becoming more aware of this trend, which is why they are beginning to put more of their social media sites on private so their information cannot be shared with the public.

But what exactly are the job recruiters looking for? Individuals post behaviors that are acceptable in one social context, but the same behaviors are socially stigmatizing in a different social context (“Learning about prospective,” 2012). An individual may be using their social media site for just that, media to be social with others. Depending on the job, recruiters may want to see how candidates interact with other people in different contexts.

For example, let’s just say that there is a marketing position open for a beer company. Most can agree that posting pictures on social media with alcohol is a red flag and consider refraining from such. However, is posting with alcohol harmful to your image if you are 21 years or older in an environment that is not hazardous to anyone’s health or safety? For this particular position, a job recruiter may see that the candidate has posts that include the beer they will be advertising along with posts that include their friends and/or social outings they attend. The recruiter will see that the candidate has knowledge of the product, as well as people skills needed for the marketing position. Now if the candidate were posting pictures of themselves with others that were inappropriate with alcohol, the recruiter may bypass this candidate in fear of the candidate not being able to behave appropriately while on the job.

However, some job recruiters are not looking to see much on the candidate’s social life or even choices but they are simply looking to see if the job resume lines up with the information posted on social media by the candidate. For example, Facebook users can add their place of work, the college they graduated from, their hometown, and even the current city they live in. Job recruiters will check this information to be sure that the candidate’s resume is lining up correctly with their Facebook profile information.

Risks of using social media in hiring decisions

Tiffanytlcbm (2014, July 29). [photo]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/p-400854/?no_redirect

What is the problem with this? Not everyone updates their social media to their current situation and not everyone even has social media. When job recruiters have a list of resumes for potential employees, they may end up turning away a perfect fit due to their lack of social media presence. Lawrence (n.d.) says that an inconsistent supply of information may be available between candidates and that some classes are more likely to use social media than others.

Also, if a social network user has their profile set to private, this obviously means that they do not want the world seeing what they post. Brown & Vaughn (2011) say that informal searches on social networking sites can lead to invasion of applicant privacy as well as an absence of data used to screen job applicants based on what they decide to share online.

Another risk that employers and job recruiters are posing when using social media information in the hiring process is their personal information being used unintentionally that is not relevant to the job (Lawrence (n.d.). Using social media can add quite a bit of noise to a resume. Employers have to be aware of the types of information they are selecting to use in the hiring process; it can be dangerous to assess candidates based on their race, gender, etc (Quast, 2013). This information is protected legally and it cannot be put into account when hiring (Elejalde-Ruiz, 2016).   

What to do if you are looking for a job:
It is possible to have social media and still have a job. It is important to remember that YOU are in control of what you communicate through social media. Technologies do not determine effects, people create and use technologies and the effects are not imposed on us by technology itself (Slack & Wise, 2015). With so many do’s and don’ts that seem unclear on what to post/not post on social media, it’s easy to be frustrated when you just want to connect with people online and be yourself without worrying about what a future employer may think about your social media. There are a just a few things to keep in mind when managing your social media accounts.


Below are some tips to take into consideration when it comes to using social media during your next job search

Wood, Anna. (2017, November 20). What not to post on social media [photo]. 

Watch this informative video to see ways on how to be more conscious of what you are posting online while your applications are out

Wood, Anna. (2017, November 21). Social media do’s to get the job you want [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=MmvKQyPe0t8



Brown, V. R., & Vaughn, E. D. (2011). The writing on the (facebook) wall: the use of social networking sites in hiring decisions. Journal Of Business & Psychology, 26(2), 219-225.


Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2016). Using social media to disqualify job candidates is risky. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-social-media-job-candidates-01…

Humphreys, L., Pape, T. V., & Karnowski, V. (2013). Evolving mobile media: uses and conceptualizations of the mobile internet. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,18(4), 491-507. doi:10.1111/jcc4.12019

Lawrence, P. A. (n.d.). Why you should not use social media to make hiring decisions. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from http://www.selectinternational.com/blog/social-media-hiring-decisions

Learning about prospective employees one bit at a time: increasing attributional certainty via social media. (2012). Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-30.

Quast, L. (2013). Recruiting, Reinvented: how companies are using social media in the hiring process. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2012/05/21/recruiting-reinvented-…

Slack, Jennifer Daryl, and Wise, J. Macgregor. Culture and technology : a primer (4th Edition). New York, NY, USA: Peter Lang AG, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 8 June 2015.

Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. B., & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology,29(6), 434-445. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2008.07.002

Vaast, E., & Kaganer, E. (2013). Social media affordances and governance in the workplace: an examination of organizational policies. Journal Of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19(1), 78-101. doi:10.1111/jcc4.12032