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The number of personal social media profiles continues to grow daily, nearly one million every day, companies recruit through popular social media outlets, but can it stop you from getting a job?

social media influence

Social Media Background Checks

You probably wouldn’t be surprised if a potential employer had you sign a paper allowing them to run a background check on you. Now, employers are taking it one step further and checking out candidates’ social media profiles.

45 percent of employers have reported using search engines to find candidates online; finding reasons why they shouldn’t be hired. 49 percent found images or videos of what they considered to be inappropriate behavior causing them to not hire an employee.

It’s good to keep in mind that the internet is a public space and what you put out could always trace back to you. It’s likely that you would do your research about a potential employer online before accepting any offers, assume that they would want to do the same.

What is an employer looking for?

  • A clean, preferably public profile—while it’s important to be clean on social media, an employer still wants to see that you are active and engaged. Avoid swearing, raunchy images, and pictures of drinking or drug use.
  • Your best self. An employer wants to know what you bring to the company—not something that 85% of the applicants have on their resume. Display the benefits you bring to the table.
  • Rants about work and other red flags. A potential employer does not want to see an applicant ranting about how terrible their job is and how much they hate their co-workers. Not only does it look like you don’t care about your job, but it can make for bad company publicity.
  • Don’t be invisible. Erasing or trying to make it as if you are invisible could backfire. It’s good practice to have a cultivated online presence, essentially letting other people see who you are.

How can you figure out what they will find?

  • Google yourself weekly, know what will come up on the first page. Is it you? Is it someone with the same name but a bad history? Make sure you know what people are seeing when they look for you.
  • Privacy settings do not protect you. Anyone who has permission to see it can copy and redistribute it on a public account. Expect that everyone will be able to see everything you post.
  • An employer may look for inconsistent information. Do not have contradictory information displayed on social media from what you have told them.

What happens if they don’t like what they see?

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, practices this with his players. Dennis Smith Jr. was the ninth pick in the NBA draft. However, after being drafted Cuban told him that he really needed to clean up his social media presence. While it did not affect Smith’s position on the team, his status and talent couldn’t protect him from scrutiny.

Some applicants who have been investigated in such a way feel that it was an invasion of their privacy. Employers should give the applicants the courtesy of a “heads-up” just like they would for the typical background check.

Legal and ethical questions still surround this new HR practice, but for now, until policies are in place, prospective employees should expect to be examined.