Weekly Wrap: More Employers Finding Negative Candidate Info Online

A long time ago, in what feels like a galaxy far, far away, I was a young editor at a large daily metropolitan newspaper working as a “systems editor.”

What’s that, you ask?

Well, it was back near the dawn of the age of newspaper computer systems, and I was charged with coordinating the installation of my newspaper’s first front-end computerized publishing system and training the editorial staff how to use it.

Even way back then, I remember telling my fellow journalists who were just starting to use computers something that is no less true today then it was when I said it way back when: Be careful what you write on your computer because there is a good chance that the last person you ever want to see it probably will.

43% finding negative info on social media

I was thinking of this today when reading the results of this latest CareerBuilder survey that found that “more than two in five (43 percent) of hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year.”

You know what I was thinking: Yes, some things never change.

No matter how many times people are told to be careful what they post on social media, and how oversharing can come back to haunt you, people continue to overshare on Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn, and elsewhere — and such oversharing continues to jump up and bite a lot people in the bottom.

The nationwide CareerBuilder survey, which was conducted by their longtime research partner Harris Interactive, was conducted from Feb. 11 to March 6, 2013, and included more than 2,100 hiring managers and HR professionals. It found — and this is no big surprise — that nearly two in five companies (39 percent) use social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 37 percent last year.

What hiring managers are discovering

The good news is that 19 percent of employers say they found information on social media sites “that made a candidate more attractive or solidified the decision to extend a job offer.” But, this pales in comparison to the 43 percent who found negative information that took a candidate out of the running for a job included:

  • Candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos/info – 50 percent;
  • There was info about candidate drinking or using drugs – 48 percent;
  • Candidate bad mouthed previous employer – 33 percent;
  • Candidate had poor communication skills – 30 percent;
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. – 28 percent;
  • Candidate lied about qualifications – 24 percent.

I’m not surprised that employers are still finding negative information on social media that impacts their hiring decisions, but I am puzzled at why the number of hiring managers finding such information jumped by nearly 10 percent over the past year given all the focus on NOT putting stuff online that could come back to hurt you.

This either represents deeper and more thorough online digging by employers (a good bet), or, total cluelessness on the part of way too many would-be job candidates who seem to not have gotten the message.

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Using “all tools available” to make good hiring decisions

As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, noted in a press release about this survey: “Employers are using all the tools available to them to assure they make the correct hiring decision, and the use of social media continues to grow. For job seekers it is essential to be aware of what information they’re making available to employers, and to manage their online image. At the same time, hiring managers and human resources departments must carefully consider how to use information obtained from social media and whether it is relevant to a candidate’s qualifications.”

For all we hear about social media and how ubiquitous it seems to be in our always-connected 21st century world, there are still far too many people who don’t understand some of the basic rules of life, particularly that oversharing personal information is never, ever good  — either verbally or online.

I’m hardly Nostradamus, but even I could see 30 plus years ago that the notion of computer privacy was an illusion. And though our technology and systems for sharing information have dramatically improved, human nature hasn’t.

People still overshare, and they still put information that could possibly hurt them in places where others can see it. If nothing else, this CareerBuilder survey should tell you that those looking to find such material are not only looking more, but they’re finding more, too.

And here’s another prediction: This is a trend I don’t see going away anytime soon, so be careful out there.

When good perks are bad

Of course, there’s more than how what employers are finding on social media affects hiring in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • What to expect in the 2020 workplace. Lots has been written about how our working lives might be in 2020, and here’s another survey that takes a look. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Biz Beat blog focused this week on a Georgetown University study that tries to “paint a portrait job growth and education requirements through 2020. Its research focuses on which fields will create the most jobs, education requirements and the skills that employers will covet the most. The good news is job opportunities will be plentiful. On the downside, the country will be short by 5 million workers who have the education that will be needed to fill the openings.”
  • When good perks are bad. A lot gets written about some of those over-the-top perks and benefits at places like Google and other Silicon Valley technology firms, but don’t be fooled. This article in The Atlantic says they are just “part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior.”
  • Another perk – more alcohol on the job. Does this sound like your company? The Wall Street Journal reported this week that, “Plenty of offices provide free food to their workers, but as the workday in many tech and media companies stretches past the cocktail hour, more companies are stocking full bars and beer fridges, installing on-site taverns and digitized kegs … The perk, firms say, helps lure talent, connects employees across different divisions and keeps people from leaving the office as the lines between work and social lives blur. But employment lawyers worry that encouraging drinking in the workplace can lead to driving while intoxicated, assault, sexual harassment or rape. Plus, it may make some employees uncomfortable while excluding others, such as those who don’t drink for health or religious reasons.”
  • When you’re in out-of-office reminder hell. HR Tech conference grandmaster Bill Kutik is the only person I’ve ever seen who knows how to use automatic out-of-office reminders the right way, and apparently, using them the wrong way is fairly standard practice. That’s why this Fast Company story on 9 Signs You’re in Out-of-Office Hell struck a cord with me. See how many of these signs you are guilty of.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


1 Comment on “Weekly Wrap: More Employers Finding Negative Candidate Info Online

  1. If it legal to drink and most adults do at times including hiring managers. Why do they care if you posted a Corona add on your page. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t like job searches to look them up Facebook. And I think it should be a two way street. Employer’s should quit stalking job applicatiants on Facebook.

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