Social media screening is a topic that divides opinions like no other in the recruitment world. Using the likes of Facebook and Twitter to ‘screen’ potential applicants is nothing new, nor is it a practice that’s going to go away anytime soon, but there may be more to this controversial subject than first meets the eye.

Let’s start with some statistics: a survey conducted by CareerBuilder last year found that 37% of employers use social networks to screen potential candidates, and of those a third claimed to have not hired a candidate based on the content they had found.

Consider too that 89% of job seekers use social media sites, and you get an idea of how vulnerable individuals are to screening.

Social media screening may be rife, but does that make it right?

On the one hand, social media screening gives recruiters a level of insight into a potential candidate that far exceeds any CV, covering letter or face-to-face interview. You can see how this might be an appealing prospect, particularly when choosing between two or three equally qualified candidates.

The counter argument being that this process is wholly unethical, and ultimately unfair – can, or more importantly should recruiters make a professional decision about someone based on how they choose to act, who they choose to associate with, or what political party or religion they choose to follow outside of work?

It’s an interesting question, the answer to which will be different depending on who you speak with.

But ethics aside, the main reason the subject of social media screening gets such negative press is because it is primarily a process used for gathering incriminating evidence. Drunken Facebook photos, sweary status updates and controversial Tweets: we’re probably all guilty of at least one of these things, but should that be to the detriment of our career?

Short sighted screening

Whilst it’s easy to focus on the negative statistics above, the survey also revealed that social media screening isn’t all about looking for incriminating behaviour. Good news for job seekers.

In fact, it was revealed that 29% of of the surveyed hiring managers found something positive on a profile that drove them to offer the candidate a job.

The reasons for this were based primarily on the how the candidate portrayed themselves: showing a good personality, professional image, creativity and good communication skills were among the reasons for hiring someone.

It should also be considered that social media goes way beyond the ‘big three’ – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Whilst these are the most commonly used and easiest to access (search Google for someone’s name and you’ll inevitably be presented with these sites) there are an abundance of sites out there which may reveal a lot more about the candidate in a professional sense. Is the candidate a member of an industry forum? Do they blog? Do they contribute to industry discussion anywhere else online? Such insight is arguably more valuable than what an individual likes to get up to at the weekend.

In summary

The subject of social media screening will continue to split opinions, and job seekers will continue to win or lose as a result.

Whilst it’s tempting to focus on the negatives, recruiters also need to dig a little deeper and look for positives. It would be shame to miss out on an articulate, creative and confident employee because you have opposing views on what constitutes an appropriate Facebook profile picture.

Prime Appointments was established in 1992 and has grown to become one of the leading independent recruitment agencies in Essex and Suffolk. For more information please visit http://www.prime-appointments.co.uk

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