Another reason why snooping on candidates social media is bad

socialmediasnoopingWith the rise of social networks it has become easier than ever to dig beneath the veneer of a CV and learn a whole lot about a job candidate during the recruitment process.  An entire industry has emerged around this to help and advise individuals on how they can manage their personal brands online.

I wrote recently about the potential dark side of this trend however, with research suggesting that recruiters are using the data they mine from social media profiles to discriminate against candidates from certain minority groups.

Aside from hampering your attempts to get the finest talent into your organisation, a new study by North Carolina State University looks at how employees respond to having their profiles screened by their employer.  It showed that having employers snoop around your profile was not surprisingly putting a lot of candidates off working there.

“The recruiting and selection process is your first indication of how you’ll be treated by a prospective employer,” says Will Stoughton, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research. “If elite job prospects feel their privacy has been compromised, it puts the hiring company at a competitive disadvantage.”

The researchers got a few hundred participants to apply for a job online.  They were then told that their Facebook accounts had been checked out for ‘professionalism’, after which a decision on their recruitment would be made.

Not surprisingly, candidates weren’t enthralled by that prospect, with 2/3 of them believing that the employer had invaded their privacy, which in turn reflected badly on the company.  What’s more, just under 60% of participants were more likely to take legal action against the company for the invasion of privacy than a control group.“This research tells us that companies need to carefully weigh whatever advantage they believe they get from social media screening against the increased likelihood of alienating potential employees,” says Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, a professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the paper. “Elite job prospects have options, and are more likely to steer clear of potential employers they don’t trust.”


9 thoughts on “Another reason why snooping on candidates social media is bad

  1. People need to get real. If something is in the public domain then it needs to reflect you in a good light. If you want it private, update your privacy settings.

    • Obviously most of the folks reading this will appreciate that fact, but I wonder how many younger people do, and if not, how will they begin to learn it? The study suggests many haven't grasped that particular nettle yet.

  2. Exactly, Andrea. This is why I created an alternate social media account, one that was open and where I chat with current and future clients and share my thoughts on my work, instead of on what my rotten kids are up to!

  3. I tend to agree with Andrea, here. People need to discern between what's public and what's private, and adjust settings accordingly.
    Another point I'd make is that not all social media are equal. I tend to agree that snooping up on a candidate's content on Facebook is questionable, I don't see the issue with Linkedin, which is a professionnal network. Or even on Twitter or Instagram, which are all accessible in terms of content (on Instagram, you can make your photos private or public). At the end of the day, we now live in a very social world, and I believe 91% of recruters use some social media platform in the search and validation process with future candidates. We can no longer be surprised, but we certainly need to adapt… 🙂

    • I suppose it depends what the recruiter is looking for. You'd imagine snooping on Facebook is more in the hope of unearthing character flaws of some kind than any kind of professional insights, although as the first study revealed, it can also give way to certain prejudices.

      Certainly a thorny issue, and I think individuals need to be proactive in protecting themselves whilst the law gets to grip with this whole area.

  4. As with the other commenters, time for people to get real here. If you don't want people reading things about you, don't put it onto the public Internet.

  5. I think it would be ok to look at someone's PUBLIC info – after all, if you post something online you have to believe it's publicly available, right? Job candidates should be researching the company they want to work for the same way a company can research their candidates. However, somehow infiltrating a person's personal and private account (whether by asking for a password or by fake-friending) is something else. It's like listening in on a phone cll or reading a personal email. Yeah, it's online, but not intended for public consumption. People aren't going to be solid gold! There are going to things that sound bad or look bad (or maybe are bad!) but it's not all relevant to a person's ability to do a job.

    • I suppose that's the grey area. Research has suggested that recruiters may use things that are in the public domain, ie someones religion, to discriminate against them during the recruitment process. Certainly a tricky area.

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