New Study Shows Increase in Online Applicant Screening

1 in 5 employers use social networking sites to screen prospective employees.  That’s according to a new study by Careerbuilder.  34% reported that they rejected candidates based on what they discovered during their online search.  We’ve written quite a bit about this practice, including what to look for if you do elect to incorporate online background checks into your hiring repertoire.

Here’s what other employers have been looking for and, specifically, what will prompt them to reject a candidate:

  • 41% – content posted about alcohol or drug use
  • 40% – “inappropriate of provocative” pictures
  • 29% – candidate appeared to have poor communications skills
  • 28% – candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee
  • 27% – candidate lied about qualifications
  • 22% – discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc.
  • 22% – candidate’s screen name was unprofessional
  • 21% – candidate was linked to criminal behavior
  • 19% – candidate shared confidential information from previous employers

Unlike some bloggers, I am in favor of this practice–so long as it is performed with certain safeguards.  For example, Nick Fishman’s concerns about the accuracy in candidate’s Facebook or MySpace pages (1) have not materialized to any significant extent that I’ve seen; and (2) are allayed by simply asking the candidate about whatever it is that the employer found that may acting as a barrier to employment.  Just as with criminal backgrounds, employers should not make a per se decision without first giving the candidate an opportunity to explain the results of the report and any circumstances surrounding the arrest and/or conviction.  The same interactive discussion should occur if an employer finds something on the candidate’s social-networking site that gives them concerns.

One thing that opponents of this practice seem to overlook is that employers have an affirmative duty, legally, and for business reasons, to make the best hiring decisions possible, using all of the information reasonably available to them.  The only real threat of suit here is if the employer does not take the few minutes required to do an internet search on a candidate who, after being hired, commits an act of workplace violence. If the employee’s MySpace page was filled with images of violence and words of rage, you can bet your last nickel that the employer will face a negligent hiring lawsuit for hiring the employee without taking the free and quick step of running that internet search.

For prior posts on this topic, see:

Conclusive Proof that Employers Should Screen Applicants with Social Networking Sites

How to Conduct Online Background Searches With Google

Facebook Users Beware: Employers Aren’t the Only Ones Who Know How to Google

Top 10 Reasons Why Employers Should Screen Their Applicants

And for employers who are considering the practice of Online Applicant Screening but who don’t know where to start, be sure to catch the easy-to-understand video, Video Resources: How to Set Up a Facebook Account for Applicant Screening, available under the Resources > Video Resources tab at the top of the page.

2 thoughts on “New Study Shows Increase in Online Applicant Screening

  1. I agree Molly. I think employers should get to check in to who they are hiring. I also agree with discussing with the individual and the employer about the situation in question. One good alternative to a random google search would be to offer your employer a comprehensive online portfolio of your personal brand. You can create one at I like it because you can list your goals, achievements and work history with others validating your credentials. It is a more professional site that you can openly and honestly give your future or current employer a direct URL link to. I think it makes it a win win situation.


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