Employers reviewing an online profile

The top three things that employers want to see in your social media profiles

Peter Harris|

We’ve all heard that potential employers are going to be looking for us on social media. But why do they do it? What is it that companies want to see about our private life activities before making a professional assessment of us?

Sometimes, they’re just looking for potential passive candidates in the first place. Increasingly, networking sites are used as tools by recruiters and hiring managers to seek out sources of talent. Some 44% of employers surveyed said that they had hired a candidate through social media.

That’s an impressive number, but it pales beside the fact that almost all employers (93% to be exact) say that they will search for your social media profiles during the interview process.

While not limited to these, the most common websites for recruiters to screen candidates on are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. What you post and how you behave on these sites can create a first impression of the sort of person you might be.

For example, do you share insightful information? Do you have a sensible professional-looking photo? Are you well-connected in your field? Do you appear to be social and outgoing? Do you seem to be the sort of person who would fit in with the team at work they are considering hiring you for?

This last point, cultural fit, is key for most employers according to a survey of recruiters and hiring managers by Jobvite. So you’re in contact with an employer. They have your resume. You’ve met, or are about to meet for an interview. What do they say that they go looking for on your social media profiles?

The top three things employers look for in your social profiles?

    More than half of hiring managers (51%) say that they’re looking to see if the candidate will be a good fit with the corporate culture. Think about it, your Facebook profile is a far more accurate portrait of what you’re really like than an employer could get from a screening questionnaire. In a questionnaire – you can always give the answers that you think an employer wants to hear. On Facebook your friends would call you out for ‘posing’ as something you’re not.

    45% are researching potential hires on social media to find out more about that candidate’s qualifications. If you’ve mentioned your communication skills – are these supported by your online activity? What do you post or tweet about? Are you articulate, intelligent, and friendly, or are you argumentative, belligerent, and foul-mouthed? Most importantly, employers want to see if the information you’ve listed about your education, experience and previous jobs matches up with what you listed in your resume.

    Almost as many, 44% of hiring managers want to see if a candidate is creative. How you choose to use the latest networking tools and technologies can say a lot about how social, savvy and skilled you are. Employers will be looking to see how innovative and original you are in what you do online.

And we’ve said it before, it seems like it bears repeating: employers will also be screening out candidates for what they deem as inappropriate behaviour online.

There are two parts to this. One is that while drinking too much at a party and passing out shouldn’t disqualify someone from a job. However, the act of posting evidence of it online and boasting about how wasted you got can demonstrate that you’re quite unsavvy about personal branding and how to market yourself. That’s the bigger problem.

The other issue is that there are some online behaviours that just turn employers off. 42% of those surveyed say that they have changed their mind about whether or not to hire someone based on what they have found online.

Here’s what employers say they least want to see in candidate social profiles:

  • 83% of employers say they are turned off by references about using illegal drugs. (If this comes as a surprise to you, it’s definitely time to cut down on the illegal drug use).
  • 71% are turned off by posts of a sexual nature. (Nobody wants to see that).
  • 65% are turned off by use of profanity.
  • 61% are turned off by bad spelling or grammar.
  • 51% are turned off by references to guns, and
  • 47% are turned off by photos of consuming alcohol.

Interestingly, displaying poor grammar and spelling online appears to be more detrimental to your prospects than guns or alcohol. So if you’re going to post about getting drunk and shooting guns, make sure you spell everything correctly and use proper punctuation. Seriously, regarding drinking, there is quite a large difference between a picture of someone making a toast with a glass of wine versus being passed out on the floor surrounded by a sea of empties. Use some common sense. That’s what employers want to see.


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter


Category: Job Search Strategies, Latest News & Advice, Student
  • http://www.good.co/blog Lisa – Good.Co

    Interesting stuff! I still think there’s a bit of a bad precedent being set when social media savvy is being rated (even subconsciously) for applicants to positions that have no social media savvy requirement. Certainly, for most forms of office work, communications skills and self-editing come into play on a regular basis, but this happens less often on a job site, for example. That’s not to say that those employers are actively screening for skills that have no place in the position, but that care should be taken that those same employers are making a conscious effort to pick pertinent criteria from applicants’ social media profiles rather than not: deciding, ‘this represents an ideal candidate,’ instead of, ‘this represents a great social media profile.’ If the Venn diagram of those criteria overlaps, that’s fine – it’s when they become mutually exclusive that we must be more careful.
    Cheers! Lisa Chatroop, Good.Co

  • Emily Brewes

    I hate to be the Spelling Police, but ‘outrages’ should be ‘outrageous’ – I’d be remiss to let as many as 61% of your potential future employers be turned off by such a tiny error.
    Great article!
    Many thanks and best regards.

  • Brent Knorr

    I’m a little surprised that privacy wasn’t mentioned.How do potential employers feel about someone who seems to have set appropriate privacy settings on Facebook vs someone who seems to have left things wide open for the public to see?

  • Marc Richards

    I wonder what percentage would if person as me have picture of exotic pet as reptiles, or spider?

    same for dogs/cats owners.

  • Steve M

    Neither of my grandfathers would have found jobs if they were looking now, judging by this. They were not “savvy about personal branding” when they weren’t at work. But they spoke their minds and they worked hard. I doubt you could find such dedicated employees by shopping around on Facebook for someone whose profile seems like they wouldn’t rock the boat.

  • Scott Rudolph

    I have mixed feelings about this. I think its important during an interview to be prepared and to look the part of the position you are applying for. However, a potential employer rocking through my facebook…good luck, my privacy settings are all Friends only. concerns me. I’ve worked with people who are consummate professionals, but their facebook makes them look like a qualified lunatic. Perhaps all this social media searching is why companies can’t find qualified applicants, and why so many qualified people are on the unemployment line. Just a thought.

  • http://ca.linkedin.com/in/cristiangergely Cristian Gergely

    How can we turn off the HR people who:
    – don’t know what communication is / feedback is (but they seems to have a lot of time when they hunt you…when they need)
    – don’t care about the grammar (but they care for ours)
    – ask questions you already responded / have on your CV (e.g. “How many months you worked at…” – I responded previously and it is on my CV (in bold))
    – don’t understand at all what are you looking for / ask you for jobs that you never did
    – don’t make a difference between a fabricated or genuine smile
    – yawn or chew gum during interview

  • Roxy Leigh

    If a potential employer tried to find me, for example, on Facebook, he would never find me. I never signed up with my real name. I keep my social profile to my friends/family only. To think that this would count against me is incredible.

    • Rob lover

      Also sounds discriminatory.

    • Jim

      Hiring an employee is undertaking a risk. These days, if someone doesn’t have a Facebook profile it might indicate they are a technology non-starter, or else they had so much inflammatory or hateful or worrisome stuff on there – that it was easier and quicker to just delete the account rather than remove the rough spots. Either way, with an abundance of candidates, they can just move to somebody that doesn’t raise any eyebrows, let alone ring any alarm bells.

  • Efrem

    100% of employers want to know whether the candidate is willing to work for peanuts.

    • Nissim Levy

      Then they should open a zoo and hire elephants.

  • Jeremy Webster

    Hello peeps

  • deb2000

    Probably the safest thing would be to have social media accounts but make sure to never express a negative opinion about anything. If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.

    • Gordon Dyck

      No just do not make it public. I have a dummy account that I use for facebook just to see what others see.

  • Lao Tzu

    Only a fool will make anything in Facebook public, beyond the mandatory profile picture