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Is Social Media the death of a New Hire?

Would you pass on a candidate because of their Facebook page? Should an employer even look?


Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: VP, Thought Leadership
Company: Stampli
LinkedIn Profile
(VP, Thought Leadership, Stampli) |

Employers should, and more and more do look. All enterprise size companies look almost without exception, and I would venture to say that some have made it part of their hiring process.

Of course it all depends "what is out there" and your corporate culture. If your corporate culture is strong and a post or posting represent behavior(s) that are just "not a fit" for your corporate culture, then the person should be "removed" as a candidate.

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

This is a very slippery slope. Other than clearly illegal activity, I would caution against discriminating against a candidate due to something that is on their Facebook page. I hire for attitude, intellect and drive. (assuming they have the basic knowledge, that is). The fact that someone likes to collect pictures of purple cats isn't any of my business.

More often than not, researching someone's Facebook page is a way for HR to reduce the pile of resumes rather than truly looking for the best candidate.

Also, in reference to Ernie's post, who determines what is "corporate culture" and what isn't, and further who determines whether someone's behavior is a "fit"? What if someone's "behavior" is considered part of their race or national origin? Can you say "lawsuit"?

I would like to have diverse people in my company rather than everyone thinking, dressing and acting the same. The measure is whether they can do the job not whether you have a thing about dressing up like furry animals. (yes that is a real thing.)

So at the end of the day, if their background check comes back clean, looking at their Facebook page is a field of land mines.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: VP, Thought Leadership
Company: Stampli
LinkedIn Profile
(VP, Thought Leadership, Stampli) |

Corporate culture is nothing more than a concept at most companies given the general attitude that turnover is acceptable, and as such, there is not much true investment in developing talent that is the right fit for your culture. Management provides the framework and environment for the culture, and the employees define it. I have worked at one company where corporate culture was a way of life, most thrived, a few did not. Corporate culture is determined at the top, and when I worked at a company that had one, it drove my behavior, and how I interacted with my co-workers and when representing our company. Ask me about that company and I can still tell you part numbers, suppliers, products, strategy, etc. That is because there was a corporate culture and I was a good fit within it. That job was well over a decade ago, and I am not known for my memory.

BTW, you can have a corporate culture, part of which is diversity and innovation, ever heard of Google?

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Scott, with Facebook being social media, would it be illegal to look? Take the discrimination out of it for discussion purposes because I can't debate that fact. So if you happened to Google a persons name and stumble upon their FB page and they are smoking pot and holding a hand gun, does that change your opinion?

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Depends. If it were in CO or WA where its legal, then I have no business in it. Also, if the gun is legal and his background checks clean otherwise through a regular background check, then that's not my business either.. Unless and until they break a law, as an employer, if you pass on someone based on their SM posts, you are opening yourself up to lawsuits and no one wants that, (except the lawyers)

(CFO) |


The very examples you cite suggest your own biases. Think about it.

How important are these considerations to employee performance?

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

Christie, in your example, context would be important, and you would have to take into account that some peoples idea of humor could be much different than yours. Assuming there was no overt threat of violence associate with the picture, I would observe that smoking pot is not illegal in every state, and it is not illegal to own a gun unless you are a felon. So if you are in Colorado, the instances you give are your personal beliefs and concerns, the activities you observed are not illegal and they may not have anything to do the ability of someone to do the job. In the end however, pot smokers and gun owners are not protected classes so you couldn't be found in violation of the law (unless the pot use is for a medical condition, then you might have an issue for violating the ADA).

But let me take your example a step further. What if you saw on that same person's Facebook page that they celebrate a Pagan holiday, how are you going to defend that you didn't eliminate them for their religious beliefs? Also, in some instance their social media shows their birthday. How will you defend against an age discrimination lawsuit? What if you see they are in a wheelchair...... is that discriminating for their disability? I do think it is possible to have too much information.

So I think the real question is do you even go to their social media pages. Remember we want to be consistent in how we screen applicants. So if you do it for one, you need to do it for all. Given that social media often reveals religions beliefs, age, and disability issues, I would say the risk it too great.

By the way, we haven't even touched on the issue of political beliefs which is whole other issue.

I think there are better ways to screen applicants. But that is just my opinion. :)

PS - It is interesting to see how much of the population uses pot. In RI, 1 in 8 people over 12 uses pot. That is very interesting.

Merry Christmas!!

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

OK- I think Scott has some good points there, so what if you looked at their profile on Proformative or on LinkedIn?

Perhaps the experts can comment on this: What if the prospective employer asked (e.g. at the same time an Employment Application is requested) something like this: "I do not know if you have a FB or similar profile, however is there anything on that site which you would prefer your employers not to know about?"

Ern Miller
Title: Co-CEO
Company: Miller Small Business Solutions
(Co-CEO, Miller Small Business Solutions) |

"is there anything on that site which you would prefer your employers not to know about?"

Yes, I don't want them to know I am a world class barbequer because every place that I work that finds that out asks me to cook for the Christmas party and expect me to do it for free and for me to pay for the meat since I refuse to use the cheap, one-level-above-dog-food-grade meats they are willing to buy.

(CFO) |

Interestingly enough I have been recently asked this very question in two different interviews I've had. IIRC, it was phrased as, "And, finally we will be conducting background checks including looking you up on the internet. Is there anything you want to tell us about that we might find there that might be of concern?"

My answer of course was, "No!". But then, as I reflected back, I wondered if something might come up that even I didn't realize. There is a reason I am anonymous here. I certainly haven't said anything I wouldn't say in a normal, everyday business conversation. But then again, I might choose different words for different audiences.

In some very small, limited interest forums I have participated in I've railed against government regulations. And, when I've searched my name on the internet, some of those opinion exchanges have come up. But, look where I work and consider where I may go next. They can work against me. Government tends to hire only government lovers.

Everyone should do internet searches on their own names once in a while. You might be surprised at what comes up. I know I have been.

The internet, like so many things in life, has far surpassed our ability to process and deal with it in a social fashion. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Ditto for cellphones!

Marie Arriaga
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Mechanix Wear
(Accounting Manager, Mechanix Wear) |

Well, if you apply with the FBI or most police departments, you have to give them your log-in and password for all social media sites you participate on. Therefore, for me, it's more about being prudent and intelligent about what you put out there about yourself, especially if you are on a job hunt.

(Co-CEO) |

My personal page is pretty limited. It's there, but not anything wow.

But, by going to my page, you can see my age and skin color. If I knew a potential employer went to my Facebook page, then passed over me, I could bring a discrimination law suit, and with the right lawyer, I could win the case, if I could prove myself superior to other prospects in every way other than my age and skin color. BTW, I look 15 years younger than I am.

Sure, hard to prove, but provable in a court of law.

Is it lawful for an employer to follow a potential employee around on a Friday night? Wouldn't that be stalking?

For what it is worth, I wold never work for someone, other than a government agency requiring a background check for national security reasons, who requires me to hand over my Facebook password. "Mr. Smith, your password: 'GOfYourself' was not the right password." "Oh, I'm sorry. I changed my password to: 'Idontwantyourstupidjob'."

For my own company, I won't try to find out a person's facebook page or anything like it. If it comes to me that someone is badmouthing the company on their page, it will be grounds for investigation to firing, but until their is cause, their private life is their own life. We do not have a right to look into it.

As employers, we have a task to be done, and the employee is willing to do the task for the pay and benefits we deem the completion of the task to be worth. Unless knowing what they made for supper, what their puppy looks like, or even that frat house picture of them passed out with penises drawn on their face is pertinent to the job we want done, it is none of our business how they live their lives.

If what they do is illegal, that is the job of law enforcement, not employers.

(CFO) |

Fully agreed. And, for those defending this type of "checking" on a candidate, would you be willing to share access to your company's electronic information? emails? Financial statements?

It is a two way street.

Long before social media, I was always a bit amazed at how potential employers demanded to know everything about me including my salary history. And yet, if they were a privately held company they would not consider letting me have a peak at their financial statements.

Uh, what's good for the goose........................

Good candidates and good companies can work around this kind of thing. Employers that are full of themselves can't and will reap the rewards that come with hiring less than good employees.

Ted Monohon
Title: VP -Finance / Controller
Company: Fantex
(VP -Finance / Controller, Fantex) |

I would have to echo what Scott is saying. Opening that can of worms is full of potential liability. Other than Linked In, most social media contains nothing relevant to hiring a candidate. It doesn't contain, work history, work product or responsibilities, job performance or other criteria made in assessing a candidate of for a job. What is does contain is a whole lot of information not required and illegal for a potential employer to assess in a job hiring decision:

Marital Status
Sexual Orientation
Medical information
Political Affiliations
Past Criminal Record (now illegal to use in most cases for CA based employers)

If as a potential employee, I can prove you looked at my social media information and decided not to hire me (regardless of my real qualification or your real reasons for not hiring me) good luck finding a jury to not hand me a huge sum of money.

Best stay away from it.

Good luck.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Hell, no. If the post is on the candidates time and equipment, I have no business what they've done. I would do a background check for anything illegal, but that would be whether they had social media or not., but its none of my business what they do on they're own free time as long as its legal. I think my sentiments mirror pretty well those of the last two posters.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

Love the discussion. It always amazes me everyone's different perspectives, when this topic comes up. I love Scott's points on consistency and treating everyone the same. I think that is the best practice to keep everyone safe.

Mary Boettcher
Title: HR/HRIS Specialist
Company: Marion County, Oregon
(HR/HRIS Specialist, Marion County, Oregon) |

I agree that it seems like stalking and how many things can be misconstrued because you don't really know the person. I do not know how many times I have removed content from my page that someone else posted because I did not approve of it. What if a potential employer saw it before I removed it? They will make an incorrect assumption or judgment of what type of person I am. I also think people should not share with the whole world what they do not want the whole world to see. It is possible to restrict what is visible to only certain groups of people.

Additionally, "As of Nov. 18, 2014, Legislation has been introduced or is pending in at least 28 states and has been enacted in Louisiana, Maine (authorizes study), New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin in 2014." making it illegal to ask for a prospective employee's user names and passwords to their social media accounts. (NCSL:

For these reasons and all the protected class reasons others have mentioned, I think you would be treading on legal thin ice to start reviewing prospective employee social media accounts.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Do you ever feel that we're coming full-circle on the "company town" conundrum of the early to mid 19th century into the 20th.... ?

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

It depends on the position being filled. If the hire was for a position where an inappropriate Facebook page could be damaging to the company, it should probably be reviewed. Lots of legal and ethical questions and issues to be sorted out.

David Smith
Title: Manager
Company: Private
(Manager, Private) |

The idea being that information is randomly found that may affect the hiring choice.

If that is the case, and I'm not sure how common that is, then I would suggest using sites like Proformative and LinkedIn to create positive impressions as all of you have done here.


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