Workplace online activity is one of the most widely discussed and controversial forms of surveillance. Less discussed is that, even before we get the job, many of us are making it very easy for our potential employers to understand more about our lives than we would like. The 2016 iteration of CareerBuilders annual social media recruitment survey reveals the extent of employers interest in our social media presence. Out of more than 5,000 hiring managers, HR professionals and full-time U.S. workers, 60% of employers admitted that they use social networking sites to research job candidates, a number that is up from 52 per cent in 2015.

We are starting to catch on

Google autocomplete is the familiar function that suggests the completion of your question based on popular searches in your location. When we entered 'do employees check on Google's USA and UK sites', we got the following results:

Do Employers Check

Right up there with concerns around employees checking grades and fiscal responsibility, in both countries, we appear to be concerned or at least inquisitive concerning the extra lengths employers go through to vet us. In light of this, we'd like to explain what employees are looking for and why. But first, we did some of our research. We polled 1,000 UK adults on their social media habits when considering applying for jobs or in recruitment. Our study revealed the following:

  • * 70% admit falsely 'fluffing up' their social media profiles to impress recruiters.
  • * A third (34%) admit 'virtue signalling' on social media to impress potential employers.
  • * 81% perform a social media audit when entering the recruitment process.
  • * Going dark - 29% stop posting on social media when applying for jobs, and 1 in 10 have deleted or suspended accounts to avoid scrutiny.

Job Hunting and Social Media

The 2016 Jobvite UK Social recruitment survey details the channels used by employers in the USA and UK. This survey is based on interviews conducted with 500 human resources professionals spanning multiple industries in both countries.

Channels Used: USA

LinkedIn Reference

Hiring managers and other HR professionals in the USA primarily use LinkedIn to confirm candidate details (87% of respondents), although Facebook (55%), Twitter (47%), Glassdoor (38%) and Youtube (21%) are also used.

Channels Used: UK

Facebook Reference

Employers in the UK prefer Facebook. 46% of respondents use this platform to verify candidates information. Another interesting observation is that Instagram is a platform that UK employers use over their US counterparts.

So what are Recruiters looking for?

Potential employees are generally not looking to trip candidates up but are generally looking to confirm claims made on resumes and CVs. The CareerBuilder annual social media recruitment survey found that around 30% of the employers who screen candidates through social networks state that checking social media tipped the balance toward the candidate getting an offer.

Employers felt that social media accounts helped recruiters understand - if a candidate was capable of portraying a professional image - if a candidate was able to fit with company culture - what the candidates range of interests is - the level of a candidates communication skills.

The Good and the Bad

Even though employers are not generally looking to trip you up, what they find on your online profile can certainly hinder as much as it could help. Respondents to the job site survey answered questions on the things that can significantly affect a candidates chances either positively or negatively.

Below are the top 3 positive and negative topics found through social media with the potential to impact employability. % of hiring managers that would consider hiring/rejecting a candidate based on finding online information on the following topics:

Reasons to Reject Candidate

The majority of data available is for the UK and USA. When the above data is broken out by country, the UK recruiters take some online activities less seriously than their US colleagues.

Percentage of UK/USA hiring managers that would consider rejecting a candidate based on finding online information on the following topics:

Alcohol Use

Drugs Use

Can Recruiters act on what they find?

Yes. Employers are warned to carefully interview a candidate face-to-face before digging for online information. The reason for this is that if information online reveals details of race/religion/gender/sexual orientation (which it almost certainly will), the failure to offer a candidate an interview could be viewed as resulting from discriminatory behaviour. In many countries (such as the US and UK), employers are also prohibited from asking for passwords, which would just be weird, but more importantly, an invasion of privacy.

Outside of these caveats, if you are reading this, your potential employer is highly likely to check your online presence. If they see instances of hate speech, discrimination, excessive alcohol use or reference to illegal drugs, it can and probably will be used against you when considering you for employment. In summary, if you wouldn't put it on your CV, make sure its not viewable to non-friends or better still, forget about putting it anywhere near your social media channel of choice.