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In the race to hire the best and brightest talent, recruiters and hiring managers have a new tool at their disposal: social media. These days, hiring managers are specifically banned from asking sensitive questions about your personal life during job interviews, but there is one area where recruiters can learn a lot about you, and that’s just by checking out your recent posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Employers are using social media during the hiring process
First and foremost, recruiters are looking to avoid obvious hiring mistakes – such as people who are obnoxious trolls in their online lives. If you have a long track record of cyberbullying, for example, that’s going to raise a number of red flags for hiring managers. If someone is a bully online, aren’t they going to act the same way in the workplace? And if job candidates are routinely posting drunken photos of their latest weekend exploits, what does that mean for the way they will conduct themselves at the office or with clients?
And, secondly, recruiters are performing stealth background checks to see if your online profile matches up with everything you’ve put on your resume. For example, if you are positioning yourself as a “thought leader,” but you haven’t posted anything on LinkedIn in quite some time, or if you are trying to convince someone that you are an “online influencer,” but you have only a few scattered followers across social media, that might also raise some red flags.
Is social media exposing you in ways you never expected?
Viewed from this perspective, of course, it seems as though corporations are just doing their own share of due diligence, to make sure that they catch all the mistakes before they have a chance to embarrass a company later. The New York Times, for example, is still dealing with the awkward situation where they hired an editorial board member, and then only later discovered a series of racist tweets from a few years ago. Checking out a person’s Twitter profile is one way to protect yourself from potential liability.
However, what if you view it from another perspective – that companies and hiring managers are snooping around in your personal life, without your permission, and often without your knowledge?
So let’s pose an interesting scenario: what if you are a young woman applying for a job and the person in charge of hiring happens to run across your Facebook posts talking about a new child you are expecting 9 months from now? In the purely offline world, an interviewer would never be able to discriminate you because of gender. And they would certainly never be able to ask whether or not you were pregnant. However, social media opens the door to a new type of “shadow banning,” where you are disqualified for a job before you even have a chance to show up at an interview. Presumably, a racist hiring manager would be able to eliminate prospects purely on the basis of ethnicity or race.
Or, for example, what if you happen to be a passionate supporter of a certain politician or a certain political ideology – and your potential boss has very different ideas about politics? The fact that you have been tweeting or posting about politics might inadvertently disqualify you – or even lead to your dismissal on some other pretext.
Clean up your social media profile now
It’s clear that social media is now very much a minefield. The lesson is clear: the time to do a social media audit is now, rather than later. Take time to clean up any parts of your social media identity that you don’t want a future boss to know about – or at least make your profile as private as possible. In today’s digital world, you never really know who might be snooping around behind your back.