Here’s what they are looking for when they scroll through your Instagram and Facebook accounts.
BY STEPHANIE VOZZA
When it comes to getting your online profiles ready for a job search, you probably focus your attention on LinkedIn. However, a study by the job search website Simply Hired found that hiring managers are more likely to check your Instagram account.
Just 29% of hiring managers look at an applicant’s LinkedIn profile, while 38% search for social media accounts, the study reports. And there’s an important reason why, says Carly Johnson, project manager at Simply Hired: “LinkedIn is a great platform, but if you have someone’s resume, you’re probably not going to find much else about them; it’s pretty replicated.”
Johnson says recruiters often go to Instagram and Facebook to determine the kind of person the candidate is beyond their resume. “Instagram and Facebook show a living, breathing person,” she says. “It’s great to have a second level of information.”
Social media platforms offer a wealth of information about candidates.
Posts and comments on social media platforms provide insights to a person’s beliefs, and they can reveal potential red flags, says Johnson. “You want to make sure candidates aren’t rude or offensive toward people,” she says. “Also, do their personal opinions fit with your culture?”
Victoria Whiting, internship director at the marketing firm Agency H5, looks for characteristics on candidates’ profiles that fit with the agency’s five core values: kindness, smarts, integrity, passion, and hustle, she says. “It can be difficult to assess these values in an interview, as a candidate can come across as kind and passionate during an initial conversation, but later demonstrate the exact opposite,” she says. “I use social conversations and profiles to evaluate how this person would stack up.”
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
Pictures reveal hobbies and interests, allowing you to get a bigger picture of a person, says Johnson. “Hobbies show that a person is well rounded,” she says. “You don’t want someone who is all about work and a robot.”
Twitter is a great place to showcase what interests you professionally, adds Whiting. “When evaluating a candidate, I check for a Twitter profile to see what types of articles are shared, where he or she gets news, what content is of value to the candidate, and how he or she engages with other people,” she says.
If your job has a marketing aspect, employers might want to see how you brand yourself through social media. Whiting looks to see if candidates have a basic understanding of how platforms work. “We create Facebook content and paid ads for many of our clients, so it’s important that this channel is not overlooked,” she says.
When it comes to Instagram, profiles with well-curated content stand out, says Whiting. “Instagram is a great place to showcase your eye for cohesive imagery, brand development, engaging content, and clever copywriting,” she says.
THE LEGALITIES OF LOOKING
While there is no law against looking at a candidate’s public social media sites, it could pose a potential risk because you might learn protected characteristics such as a person’s age or national origin, says David Weisenfeld, legal editor for XpertHR, an HR services provider. “If the applicant somehow becomes aware that the employer accessed this information via social media and is subsequently passed over for the job, this knowledge could boomerang against the employer and potentially lead to a discrimination claim,” he says. “Even meritless claims could cost the employer time, money, and resources to defend, so this risk should not be discounted.”
Loni Freeman, vice president of human resources at the public relations agency SSPR, checks the LinkedIn profile of every candidate she interviews, and stops there. “Since I know this person is actively seeking a position with our company, I’m interested in learning how they are maximizing their professional candidacy,” she says. “I do see value in understanding the public personality of an individual; however, once you learn information about someone, particularly protected hiring information, you can’t unlearn it. It’s a slippery slope for a recruiter, and using personal information to make a professional hiring decision is risky.”
While not all recruiters look at social media, Johnson said Simply Hired’s study found that the number is higher than they originally thought. She offers this advice for job seekers: “If you have a public account, you’re better safe than sorry,” she says. “Make sure you’re comfortable with anyone seeing what you’re posting, from a friend to a future employer.”