Employers Scrutinize Students’ Social Media Presence

Work experience, skills and references are not the only factors employers consider while interviewing potential employees. A recent study found that the social media accounts of potential employees are also being scrutinized and, in some cases, costing interviewees the job.

A 2013 survey was completed by JobVite, an applicant tracking system that works for companies such as E-Harmony, Spotify and Starbucks on social media during the hiring process. According to the survey, 93 percent of job recruiters surveyed are likely to look at a candidate’s social media accounts, and 78 percent of the recruiters have hired through social networking websites, which is a 20 percent increase from 2010. The study also found that of the participating job recruiters, 42 percent reconsidered hiring a potential candidate based on the content on their social media accounts.

Facebook users hit a record number of 1.3 billion in 2013; 56 million between the ages of 35 and 54, and 42 million between the ages of 18 and 24. Even though the numbers show that Facebook has less youthful users, it can still affect college students while they are job hunting.

Personal social media accounts and business accounts should never mix, William Hill, Assistant Dean for Career Services, explained. “Keep your personal separate. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble. Don’t post, send or tweet anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting out in the middle of campus nailed to a tree,” he added.

Gov. Chris Christie passed bill A2878 in August 2013 that prevents an employer from acquiring a potential employer’s password as a condition of being hired. Although, companies can still look at what candidates are posting on social media sites. “Employers want to see if you understand the etiquette of social media,” Hill said. “They don’t want to hire you and then think you are going to tweet something about the firm or send an email that is going to come back and cause a problem.”

Hill also mentioned that professions such as business, marketing and advertising, journalism, public relations, and television may be more prone to social media scanning seeing as the use sites such as Facebook and Twitter for marketing and feedback. However, there are other majors that have to tread lightly with what they post online.

“I do think social media should be taken into consideration by potential employers to a certain extent,” Lauren Graceffo, a senior social work student, said. “If you are applying for a job within a certain area that your perceived image makes a difference, then it should certainly be taken into consideration,”

Graceffo explained that she currently interns for an agency that works with teenagers and if the students were to find out her last name and contact her via social media and create issues. “Something like that previously happened to my friend by a client,” said Graceffo. “This could jeopardize my professional image in so many ways.”

In the 2013 survey from JobVite, recruiters found that posts and tweets about narcotics, sexual references, profanity and misspellings were seen as more negative than pictures and statuses involving alcohol. The type of content that had the lowest or most neutral feelings from the study were political and religious posts.

Graceffo believes that employers should be able to conduct a simple social media check on potential employees for safety precautions. ” … If a simple search of your name provides various ‘questionable’ things then it would also be that easy for a client or customer to conduct the same search and find the same results,” said Graceffo.

“It’s okay to have social media accounts, but I feel they should be made private regardless of the content you post, good or bad. Your personal life should be kept away from your job,” Graceffo continued.

Kelly Chapman, a senior graphic design major, also believes that checking social media is important for employers during the hiring process, although should be done within reason. “Companies should only use it to see if their employees are doing illegal activities,” said Chapman. “For example, I recently applied for a [job at a] sheriff’s department. If they had someone doing illegal substances … that would give them a horrible and contradicting image.”

Social media is not the only electronic aspect students should be aware of. “Anybody with any sense should know that an email lasts forever,” Hill said. “If I send you an email and you read it and delete, it’s still saved somewhere in a server and will be for who knows how long, years later, if needed someone with the legal rights to do so can go and find that information and it can resurface.”

Hill also said that it is important to check what a student’s online presence looks like through Google and other sites because there might be content that people can see that a user is not aware about. Even though social media has become a main part of job recruiting in the 21st century and can have an effect, it is not the only aspect that matters. It really comes down to the actual face-to-face interview.

Hill explained if he were interviewing a potential applicant, he wouldn’t focus mainly on the social media accounts. “The majority of my decision is going to be based on meeting you, talking with you, hearing how you communicate, interpreting the answers you give to my questions,” Hill said. “You can’t do that on social media. Employers still hire people 90 percent of the time as a result of an in person interaction.”

IMAGE COMPILED by Jacklyn Kouefati