It’s common knowledge that many employers will Google a candidate’s name, or search for them on Facebook to decide whether they are the sort of person who fits with their company. What’s perhaps less known is that a 2017 survey revealed that 36% of employers in the UK discounted a candidate because of what they saw on their Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn profile. But what should employers be looking for on candidates’ social media profiles?

Adverse Social Media Activity

Most employers will say that they are looking for adverse social media activity, but what does this mean in practical terms? HR departments who are screening social media sites will have a range of things they are looking for, but these will include:

  • Anything which contradicts information or claims which someone has made on their CV or application form
  • Derogatory posts about a former employer, their business, or colleagues
  • Inappropriate language
  • Extreme views or political opinions
  • Posts showing illegal or offensive behaviour

How Far Back Do They Look?

Again, the approach taken will vary from employer to employer, and even within one employer depending on the job. Most employers recognise that the main social media sites allow anyone over the age of 13 to have an account and that it’s probably not fair to judge someone in their 20s over a post they put online as a 14 or 15-year-old. Most will only look at posts from the age of 18, or just have a blanket policy of looking at posts going back a year.

Social Media Screening as Part of the Recruitment Process

Social media screening is cheap and simple and can easily be done in house. Usually, media screening takes place at an early stage of the process before interviews. This means that members of staff are not wasting time in interviewing someone who later turns out to be unsuitable. From a candidate’s point of view, if you are often missing out on interviews for positions which you have the experience and qualifications to do, could that be down to what employers are seeing on your Twitter feed or Facebook wall?

Should You Clean Up Your Social Media Profile?

If you’re in the job market, it’s worth knowing what employers are looking for, and making sure that there’s nothing on your social media profiles which could call your character into question. Many employers recommend the “grandma” test – any posts which you wouldn’t be happy for your granny to see probably aren’t the sort of thing you’d want your employer to see either. All social media sites will let you go back through your feed and remove any posts which you feel are perhaps inappropriate. Think also what you’re posting on other people’s feeds, or what sort of replies you are posting to brands or company feeds.

Another option of course is to make yourself impossible to find on social media, if you are uncomfortable with the idea that other people might trawl through your feed. Adopt a pseudonym, misspell your name, or switch your first and middle names, and delete your profile picture too.