Reid Behrens, Senior Principal, 20/20 Foresight

People who share their personal lives, opinions and random thoughts on social media may want to consider how it can affect their professional life and career path.  After all, seemingly bright futures have flickered to darkness because of incivility in tweets or posts on social media platforms. 

High-profile individuals who recently saw their career prospects dim because of offensive posts are Roseanne Barr and Donte DiVincenzo, the Villanova basketball player who came off the bench and played the game of his life helping his team win a national title and, for himself, MVP of the Final Four. 

But accolades quickly turned to accusations when his teenaged tweets, including those containing racist, sexually explicit and homophobic language, were discovered and spread rapidly via social media.  He, and the Villanova PR team, had to work quickly -- and believably -- to restore the lost luster if he hoped to go high in the NBA draft.  Perhaps because they were the tweets of 14-year-old, and as NBA players have been accused of and admitted to more egregious behavior, the brushfire burned itself out and DiVincenzo was drafted 17th by the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Survey Says…

According to a survey in 2017 by CareerBuilder, 70 percent of employers review social media presence to screen candidates before hiring. That’s a jump from 60 percent in 2016 and a mere 11 percent in 2006.

While most job seekers aren’t as high profile as Barr or DiVincenzo, social media musings can come back to haunt even the most qualified job candidate.  We counsel job candidates to review what’s on their social media sites and delete anything that could be deemed problematic and to post only positive or good news during the hiring process. 

Because going completely dark by deleting accounts will raise red flags with employers, we advise candidates to keep a presence, but make sure nothing written could reflect poorly on him or her.  Our counsel is backed up by that CareerBuilder survey which also revealed that 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview a candidate if he or she has no online presence.

In today’s politically polarized and increasingly uncivil atmosphere, any post or comment perceived to be offensive, be it political, religious or racial in nature, can derail an otherwise positive job candidate’s trajectory.

Benefit vs. Risks of Social Media

With hundreds of thousands of resumes posted online from which employers can choose, any negativity on social media can land a job candidate’s resume in the circular file.  With this in mind, we ask candidates to weigh the benefits vs. risk of moving up the career ladder for the pleasure of debating politics with far-flung “friends” they haven’t seen since 6th grade or have never met in person.

The CareerBuilder survey also showed that concerns raised as a result of reviewing social media caused 54 percent of employers to decide not to go forward with a job candidate.  The three most cited reasons were:

·       Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information;

·       Disclosures about the candidate drinking or using drugs; and

·       Discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion.

People published a real life example of a candidate getting fired before being hired. According to the magazine, a job candidate was informed that he’d been hired pending a drug test.  Within 20 minutes of getting the good news, an employee at the hiring company saw this post on Facebook from the new “hire”: “S***! Anyone know how to pass a drug test in 24 hours?!”

Just as employers use background checks to get a fuller assessment of a job candidate than what is revealed through a resume or interviews, social media screening is another tool to determine whether a candidate should be hired.  And, unlike criminal background checks, employers can research a job applicant’s social media profile without making the applicant aware

According to the results of a 2016 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the top four reasons why HR professionals said they use social media screening in evaluating job candidates were:

·       The ability to gather more information on a candidate than would be provided by a traditional resume and cover letter;

·       To verify information in a resume and cover letter;

·       Social media sites were included in the resume; and

·       The time and effort expended is outweighed by the information gained.

On a positive note, if done right, cultivating an online presence also can lead to an offer if a candidate posts with the intention of getting a job she or he wants in mind. The CareerBuilder survey showed 44 percent of HR professionals have found posts or comments on a candidate’s social media site that resulted in them hiring the candidate. What was on social media that had a positive influence?  The top four were:

·       A candidate's background information supported their professional qualifications;

·       Great communication skills

·       A professional image; and

·       Creativity.

In addition to counseling job seekers to review their social media presence, we also tell them to do internet searches of their name using two or more search engines.  We do that because candidates might be unaware of a social media site that was created as a practical joke or personal attack and could contain entirely false information.  There also is the chance that there is more than one person with the same name in the same industry whose background might not be as positive.  Better to know that going in, so it can be handled proactively.

If you're interested in more personalized counsel as you consider a job change, schedule a conversation today with one of our Executive Marketing experts by calling 708.246.2100 or fill out the form to the right and we'll be in touch.