Due to some of the highest unemployment figures we’ve ever seen, people are fighting for jobs and with a huge number of applicants for every job there will be no shortage of candidates for your positions. In February the latest unemployment figures were released; rising 48.000 to 2.67 million in the three months to December. The rate had edged up to 8.4% according to the Office for National Statistics, the highest it has been in 16 years.

With this seemingly humongous choice of candidates and probably a higher calibre of worker on offer, how can you whittle down the numbers to a selection that is a more manageable figure? The answer could be the increasingly popular choice of screening a candidate’s social networks during the interview process.

Recruiting Software company CIPHR has conducted in-depth research into how employers screen potential candidates and it was discovered that a surprising 91% of employers use social networks when screening potential employers. 76% of screening is through Facebook, 53% through Twitter and 48% via LinkedIn.

It seems that employers are turning to social media to gain true picture of their prospective employees and discover top talent as they can find out their real interests, if they will ‘fit’ in with company, how they really behave and recruiters feel that this information reflects a more accurate representation of the applicant – not just how they perform in the interview.

Before the candidate even walks through the door 47% interviewers admitted that they screen candidates just after receiving an application, and 27% said they screen after the first detailed conversation. Whilst this may seem like a highly useful tool as you can gain a vast amount of candid information, it needs to be exercised with some caution due to the possible legal risks of discrimination claims.

When conducting a social media search there is a possibility that the search could reveal information that would be off-limits to discuss in an interview such as age or marital status, ‘accidently’ finding out this information could lead to trouble if you choose to make an adverse employment decision based on the online findings.

Other information that is regarded as off limits in discrimination laws are: age, race, religion, sex, disability, pregnancy, illness or disability, checking social media only on applicants of a certain race or gender.

Also, searching on all applicants, but using the same information differently against one particular type of applicants. For example, if all applicants had pictures of themselves of drinking alcohol in public, but you viewed that fact more negatively against females that could be considered discrimination.

So aside from the legal ramifications if used incorrectly, social media searches can be of great help when utilised fairly. With a massive 61% of employers saying that they have rejected a candidate because of what they saw about the candidate on social media, it is definitely worth looking at. So what are most recruiters searching for when choosing to view social profiles?

The top reasons from employers for dismissing candidates from the interview process were:

  • 13% lied about qualifications
  • 11% inappropriate photos or comments
  • 11% comments about previous employers
  • 11% poor communication
  • 10% drugs
  • 10% discriminatory comments
  • 9% drinking
  • 7% shared confidential employer information

There seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding social media and recruitment, but there can be some upsides to it – it can help you find a real gem of a candidate, as it is an excellent tool for showcasing someone’s best abilities.

68% of employers have said that they have hired someone based on what they saw on a social network. You can clearly see if someone is proud of their online presence if it is evident that they have made a real effort to clean up their act online. You should be looking to evaluate the potential candidate on how they interact and engage with the online community around them to create a positive and smart digital personality.

Look for comments they leave to others on blogs and articles, are they smart and thoughtful? Do they communicate well on Twitter? How big are their networks, what is their quality of content and do they keep a healthy balance between personal and professional? Do they make a conscious effort to boost their creditability whilst showing their talent and personality in a positive light?

To echo our advice the recruiters shared their reasons on why they hired someone based on their social media profiles:

  • 39% positive impression of personality
  • 36% profile supported their qualifications
  • 36% profile showed creativity
  • 34% good references from others
  • 33% profile showed good communications skills
  • 33% showed a well rounded person
  • 24% found awards and accolades

Some top talent can be found though online searches as it gives candidates a solid platform to show-off their best skills and make a great impression, so feel free to have a snoop around – but always keep in mind the legal aspects of choosing this route in the recruitment process.