For Potential Job Candidates, Social Media Activity Is As Important As A Resume

B. Michael Logan

As job seekers virtually fire off applications and applications hoping to fill the overabundance of job openings, they're noticing a disturbing question popping up on every other one: "What is your social media link?"

Younger job seekers, many of whom are under 50 with Twitter posts littered with unflattering complaints of their previous employers and Tik Tok videos of themselves jumping out of moving vehicles to dance, are finding themselves backing out of job applications at the small request of providing links to their social media pages.

Is It Even Legal For Prospective Employers To Look At A Potential Candidate's Social Media?

Just looking? Unfortunately, there's nothing illegal about browsing something that's already in the public domain. Many companies, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, have no formal or informal policies regarding the use of social media to screen candidates. Only a small percentage prohibit the use of social media screenings or searching for the candidate via online search engines.

But what if your social media accounts are set to private? Well, that's where state law can come into play to protect candidates from the prying eyes of potential employers. Depending on the state, employers cannot:

  • Ask a candidate to take themselves off of private
  • Send a request to "Friend" the candidate so they can gain access to the account
  • Ask for the candidate's login information

Federal law comes into play if an employer uses social media to discriminate against a prospective candidate based on their age, gender, color, race, disability, etc.

Now that people looking for jobs know what companies can and cannot do when searching through social media pages, let's explore what these employers are looking for.

What Are Employers Looking For On A Candidate's Social Media Page?

The study by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that about a quarter of hiring managers look through a candidate's social media pages for any red flags, such as potential performance issues.

Companies also screen a candidate's social presence for:

  • More information not provided on a resume or cover letter
  • Verifiable information to ensure the validity of a resume or cover letter
  • Other red flags that would affect the company in any way except for federally protected discrimination factors such as race or age

Which Social Media Pages Are Employers Looking Through?

If you have a Tik Tok account where you don't use your real name or have any way of identifying yourself through your username, chances are you're safe. With billions of active users across Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter, there's almost no way an employer could find you if you're not using your real name in your social media handles. You will also have to make sure you're not searchable via the same email used to apply for these positions.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, for some) the top social media websites that employers browse for potentially damaging behavior are LinkedIn and Facebook; two websites with strict "real name" policies.

After Facebook and LinkedIn, employers look at Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and other social media websites.

Can Your Social Media Accounts Disqualify You From Employment?

The same study reflects the grim reality that posts made on social media can disqualify a candidate based on what they find on their pages or through online search engines. Almost half of the organizations questioned won't even allow the candidate to explain any concerning information; they simply will move on to the next one.

Fortunately, for prospective candidates, concerning labor shortage means companies will most likely relax some of their stricter hiring practices; with many employers even easing their qualifications for hire. It's highly unlikely that high school or college-aged students are without a social media presence. While a minority actually engage in harmful behavior on social media, the majority simply use these platforms to have fun and connect with others.

However, if it's time to start job hunting and you feel your social media isn't up to a professional standard, there are some tips you can follow, such as auditing your accounts and reassessing your username.

As time goes on, companies will rely more and more on social media to screen potential candidates. While it's important to be smart, it's also important to live your life. You just need to find a happy medium.

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