The Pros and Cons of Using Social Media in the Hiring Process


There’s no question that social media is changing the recruitment landscape and the trend goes well beyond marketing.

Many companies have made social media a part of their hiring process. In fact, a 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 70% of employers now use social media to screen potential hires. It has become a quick, convenient way for HR to obtain a snapshot of a person’s personality and background without ever meeting them. However, whether or not social media has a place in professional hiring processes is debatable. Consider these advantages and drawbacks:


The pros:

1.  Social media can easily rule out candidates

Forget making it all the way to the background check – some candidates can be ruled out based simply on their social media posts before the interviewing and hiring process has even begun. Of course, recruiters shouldn’t rule out candidates for differences in values or political views, but if a candidate has mentioned their support of sexist, racist, or homophobic ideas, it’s wise to assume that they’d cause more trouble than they were worth should they be hired.

2.  Social media checks can highlight discrepancies

If your candidate mentions graduating from a particular university, but you can find no mention of it when you perform a search on their university’s graduate database (while not technically social platforms, these databases are typically easy to access), you may have cause for concern. Likewise, checking social media can be a quick way to discover that your candidate isn’t who they appear to be.


The cons:

1.  Your timing could leave you open to legal problems

Once you review a candidate’s online profile, a court will assume you are aware of that person’s “protected characteristics” that are often part of their online postings. These characteristics include gender and race as well as those that are not always evident in a face-to-face interview such as religion, age, sexual orientation or disability. If you do review social media as part of your screen, most experts recommend doing so after you have met face-to-face in an interview.

 2. Social media might not be relevant to the job

Sure, your candidates’ social profiles might feature a large share of ‘crazy night out’ photos – but this doesn’t necessarily suggest that they’re not hardworking. It’s unfair to assume that a candidate’s eagerly outgoing traits will affect their work, especially when there’s no reason to assume this will be the case.

3.  Information might be inaccurate or out of date

Barring career-specific sites like LinkedIn, social media is usually a leisure activity that may not offer an accurate glimpse into someone’s life. Many social media users have incorrect information on their profiles, especially if their accounts are several years old – remember when pranking your friends by modifying their Facebook information was the norm?

Perhaps you’ll find an incriminating YouTube video of your candidate, posted by one of their friends, doing something illegal – but if the video was made five years ago, and there’s been no mention of any similar activities since, it may be unfair to the candidate to assume they haven’t changed.

 4.  It could be seen as an invasion of privacy

Whether you agree with this will depend on your own feelings, but to many candidates, having their social media checked as part of the hiring process is likely to feel like a serious invasion of privacy. You might argue that whatever information they post publicly is fair game, but it’s still likely to cause issues should the candidate find out.

Download your free guide: 5 Steps to Creating a Social Media Recruiting strategyIn our age of digital devices, instant notifications, and LinkedIn, job seekers and HR staff are more connected than ever. We’re able to get data in an instant, which makes searching for candidates’ online lives a breeze. Whichever side of the interview table you’re on, you likely know about how much can be revealed about a person from their social media. Remember, candidates are likely to run a search on the hiring manager they'll be meeting prior to their interview, too.

What can we take away from all this? If you’re a job seeker, you ought to be aware that your potential employers are likely to be looking at your social media profiles – so if there’s anything you’re not comfortable with them seeing, ensure that your profiles are set to private.

If you’re involved in hiring processes, whether you check potential employees’ social media is up to you, but it’s important to remain aware that what you find out is not necessarily the definitive proof of a candidate’s background that some people think it is.

From time-to-time we have guest bloggers like Maia post on our site to help us bring you the latest recruitment ideas and strategies. Please note that any specific product recommendations inferred within these guest posts are made by the author alone and do not constitute a product endorsement by Newton Talent.

Written by Maia Fletcher

Maia is an aspiring freelance writer from Gisborne, a sunny city on the east coast of New Zealand famous for its fantastic wine and brilliant surfing beaches. Get to know more about Maia at