Workopolis surveyed over 300 Canadian employers about how they use social media to screen potential new hires. 63% of participants told us that they look up candidates online before making a hiring decision. This includes checking out their social media profiles.

When asked which profiles they are likely to check, respondents said:

  • LinkedIn 91%
  • Facebook 75%
  • Twitter 28%
  • Instagram 16%
  • Tumblr 3%

The three biggest social media platforms to watch remain LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. (Twitter at 38% has risen the most over a similar survey one year earlier that had only 19% of employers screening candidates on that platform.)

When asked what they were trying to determine about an applicant through their social posts, employers responded that their main motivations are to see if candidates are creative, articulate, and if they would be a good fit with the team.

They also check to see if the information online corresponds to what the candidate has listed in their resume: work history, education, timeline, and interests.

  • Nearly half of respondents, 48%, have been swayed against hiring an applicant because of something they saw online.
  • On the other hand, over one third, 38%, say that they have been moved in favour of hiring someone based on online posts.

Employers also report considering it a red flag if they cannot find any trace of a candidate online. That is because in the era of internet connectivity and interactive communication that we live in, being off the grid can make a candidate appear to be out of date or technically unsavvy for not using the latest tools to market his or herself.

Make sure to use appropriate profile pictures. Hopefully one that makes you look pleasant and confident. (But not too confident, it should go without saying that you ought to be fully clothed and sober.) Elizabeth made an infographic illustrating the most common profile picture mistakes.

Your profile picture is one of the first impressions an employer will have of you. One employer surveyed mentioned rejecting a candidate for having a “very angry face” in their profile picture.

We here at Workopolis once declined to interview an applicant whose Facebook profile picture was of him holding a beer high over his head wearing only a baseball cap and a sock. (Not on his foot.) The thing is, I don’t really care if you want to get a little crazy and pull a Blink 182 in your backyard with your friends on the weekend. That’s not really any of my business. Go nuts. (So to speak.)

I do care that you don’t have the common sense not to put a photograph of it online and make it your public profile picture – especially while applying for jobs. If you display such poor judgement representing yourself, how much will you show when representing my brand?

Why it matters

People often ask why what they do on their own time – or on their own computer – should affect their prospects at work. And that’s the reason. Even if you are not officially a company representative – you are still associated with where you work.

If your public behaviour online or offline makes you a liability to your company’s brand, your employment is at risk.

Conversely, if you have a strong social network, are well-connected and followed online, that can make you instantly more hireable. Why? Not only do these things demonstrate that you are computer literate, tech savvy, and a good communicator, but those connections themselves are assets for potential employers.

If you are an engaged, positive member of the team who posts updates about your great work life and shares the occasional company message or update across your platform – those messages reach a greater audience because of your connectivity. This makes you a valuable brand ambassador for the company. Your friends and followers are an asset.

That’s what employers are really thinking when they look you up online. Are you a good communicator, is your information consistent with your resume, will you be a valuable resource for my team?


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter