The Facebook trawl now standard practice for new bosses

74% Look candidates up on social media. Could your social media profile cost you your dream job? The Facebook trawl is now ‘standard’ practice for new bosses because inappropriate photographs, statements and behaviour on Facebook could be costing candidates any chance of finding a job, as the trawl through your social media footprint becomes a standard part of the recruitment process, it’s been revealed.

Eagle-eyed bosses are looking up prospective employees on the internet and are rejecting those whose online behaviour falls short of expected standards, a national health and safety law consultancy says.

According to the Protecting consultancy, up to three-quarters of managers now admit to looking up profiles of both candidates and existing employees, and dumping anyone who might bring the company into disrepute.

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“The job market is so competitive these days, which means employers are only taking on the best applicants,” says Protecting spokesperson Mark Hall. “That means your social media presence has to be absolutely spotless, and the Facebook trawl is becoming standard practice in recruiting.”

A survey of 550 managers who have a say in the company or organisation’s recruiting process found that: 74% look for candidates’ Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to see if they display behaviour that unsuitable for the job. 68% had rejected a candidate based on social media postings, 24% had warned current staff over their social media presence, 15% were suspicious of a candidate that had no visible social media presence.

Protecting found no shortage of business leaders willing to share their experiences in recruiting staff in a digital age:

“One young man had a really interesting CV, but I was horribly surprised to find a whole load of swearing, racist and sexist jokes on his public timeline. Suddenly, I wasn’t so keen to offer him a job,” said one manager.

“One candidate for a supervisory role at our company was endorsed on LinkedIn for ‘being a party animal’ and ‘getting the wacky-baccy in’,” said another. “No thanks.” “Picture after picture after picture of drunk photos. The first think I saw was a middle finger being held up at me. Not in my company,” said a third.

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On the other hand:

“One candidate’s application wasn’t so great, but her Facebook backed up all the voluntary work she claimed she did. We took her on, and she’s been one of our finest investments.” At what point does prying on an employee or job applicant’s social media footprint cross the line? Protecting’s Mark Hall says this is an increasingly tricky subject for employers, who have to think hard before putting their foot down.

“While there’s less of a moral quandary in looking at the character of job candidates, it becomes more of a grey area when it comes to people already working for your business,” he says. “The important question you have to ask before possibly putting your foot in it is ‘Does this post bring my company into disrepute?’ Most of the time, you’ll find that the answer is actually ‘no’.”

Protecting says that employers have to cut candidates some slack, as – after all – everybody is entitled to a private life, some of which might be advertised on a raucous social media page. “Social media shouldn’t be the immediate deal-breaker when it comes to recruitment,” says Hall. “They might be a party animal outside of work, but it’s their work skills and behaviour you’re employing them for.”

As for candidates, Protecting says that if you apply for a job while having a public-facing timeline that shows inappropriate behaviour, you are leaving yourself open to rejection.

“Delete those photos, or change your privacy settings,” says Hall. “Or better still, don’t post them in the first place.”

Protecting.co.uk is a national health and safety law consultancy that aims dump the jargon and get Britain’s businesses up to code with a no-nonsense, transparent approach. Twitter: @ProtectingUK.

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