Remember the people that you didn’t accept as friends on Facebook? Why did you reject their friend requests? Did they have creepy profile pics? The wrong hobbies?Or was it because they liked the Chris Brown page and you hate what he did to Rhianna? Regardless of your reasons, they amount to one thing: you’ve got standards, and you don’t accept just anyone. When hiring and staffing gurus use social screening to make hiring decisions, they feel the same way. But instead of looking for traits that would make someone a good friend, they look for qualities that a good hire should possess.
An applicant’s social media content can reveal important things about personality, but it can also be misleading about the person’s worth as an employee. How can companies interpret the content correctly? Websites like Facebook and Twitter inform us about people, but they also tempt us to judge them based on subjective information like a photo or a one-line comment. Hiring managers aren’t immune to this, so they have to be careful about how they screen social recruiting and social hiring candidates.
The Social Screening Checklist
So how can hiring and staffing departments keep the social screening process objective? That’s the question that interests us, and our answer is simply this: take a structured approach, and be consistent with it. Here are some basic questions that are worth asking yourself as you critically examine social media content:
- Is the person’s profile a kind of mask? Some candidates don’t give networking sites a chance to ruin their job prospects. Instead, they hire an image coach to help them look perfectly employable to social hiring screeners. If an applicant’s information makes him seem as sharp as Bill Gates and as nice as the Dalai Lama, don’t hold it against him, but realize that he may be trying to beat you at the screening game.
- Are you looking for perfection? Check to make sure that you aren’t, because many people in the social media world portray themselves as they really are (no image coaches for them). This can be a big plus if you want to hire someone who fits in with your company culture, but be prepared to take the good with the mildly bad. If an applicant has important traits that you’re looking for, don’t let minor things (like smoking status, for example) change the way you see her.
- Are you swayed by personal tastes? Musical preferences and favorite cuisines can’t really say anything about a candidate’s job performance, so don’t use them to try to get inside a person’s head. Instead, focus on traits that could predict behavior at work, such as what her Twitter messages say about her sense of humor or what his LinkedIn profile indicates about the length of time he stays with an employer.
- Do you see older content for what it really is? Facebook gives you access to someone’s entire history on the website in the form of a vertical timeline. This means that you could see a 30-year-old applicant as he was in college, photos of keg stands and all. Unless you plan on using a time machine to interview the 21-year-old in those pictures, it’s best – and only fair – to focus on where he’s at today.
Right now, 37% of hiring and staffing departments screen social media sites to help with employee selection (CareerBuilder, 2012), but if they’re not interpreting the content objectively, they might miss out on good candidates. They might even hire bad ones. Don’t let it happen to you. Above all else, remember that social media isn’t like the real world, and that it takes a conscious effort to remain objective when you grant tweets and status updates the power to essentially define a person.
Do hiring and staffing managers at your company have objective strategies for using social screening to make hiring decisions? Leave a comment using Facebook and tell us about them.