Hiring Managers Are Looking: How Digital Reputation Can Make or Break the Hiring Process

The following is a summary from the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute White Paper, “Could social media mischief cost you that new job?” published originally in February 2016.

Before the advent of social media, it used to be excessive, conspicuous drinking, criticizing the company you work for, revealing company secrets or moaning about clients that could get you fired or prevent you from getting your dream job. But today, according to popular press, using social media in the ‘wrong’ way can actually impact your ability to get hired in your ideal role. So how can a candidate’s digital reputation affect his/her chance of being hired? And more importantly, how can an organization use a candidate’s online presence to make social recruiting more effective?

It’s good to be good

We know that hiring managers often look at the social media profiles of potential employees, but do they act upon what they see? Among HR and hiring managers who use social media in recruitment, 80% say job candidates’ digital reputations do affect their hiring decisions—almost half said it affects their hiring decisions to a great or very great extent.

Furthermore, a good online reputation could help secure that new position for candidates. HR and hiring managers tend to hire those job candidates with good digital reputations. Specifically, 63% say they are confident that job candidates with good digital reputations will succeed in their organization, and 70% think job candidates with good digital reputations are more likely to be hired.

A glimpse into the true candidate?

The footprint that a job candidate leaves online can tell HR and hiring managers much more than what is presented in a résumé. While sharing details of your social life and personal opinions has had negative consequences for some candidates, HR and hiring managers are most interested in what social media profiles say about a candidate’s expertise.

Hiring managers want to recruit people who both meet the job requirements and fit in with the culture of the organization. Many believe that information from social media profiles and activities can help them discover whether a potential candidate is qualified for the job and whether he/she fits the organizational culture. However, it’s important to remember that profiles may not be an accurate representation of the candidate’s true self or potential. So don’t select or reject candidates based solely on their digital reputation.

Be mindful and stick to guidelines

Potential issues can arise in the use of social media profiles when making hiring decisions. For example, social media profiles provide personal information on race, gender, national origin, religion, marital status, pregnancy status, and disability status that could (consciously or sub-consciously) affect recruitment choices.

In fact, HR and hiring managers have expressed concerns about issues related to social recruiting, including:

  • Social recruiting could exclude good candidates who might not use social media
  • Online information about candidates might not be accurate
  • Searching social media information could infringe on the privacy of candidates
  • Hiring decisions based on social media information may lead to discrimination
  • Hiring managers are not trained in how to use social media to make hiring decisions

Having guidelines, however, can help navigate these issues. Analyses show that HR and hiring managers are much more positive about the impact of digital reputation on hiring decisions when their organizations provide guidelines. In fact, 84% of HR and hiring managers in organizations with guidelines say digital reputation has helped them improve quality of hire, while only 40% in organizations without guidelines say so.

So what does this all mean for finding talent?

Social media is ubiquitous. All social media users leave online footprints and have digital reputations, whether they are aware of it or not. Not only that, but most HR and hiring managers say that a job candidate’s digital reputation affects their hiring decisions.

Despite its popularity, organizations should be very cautious about solely using digital reputation to evaluate job candidates. Hiring organizations should also be mindful of what exactly they are discovering about candidates when they search social media profiles, and should further investigate both the validity and legality of using social media information to screen candidates. Ultimately, developing effective organizational guidelines for social recruiting practices is essential in helping to make the most of digital reputation.

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