There are many terms for it in the corporate recruiting world: data mining, identity research, online screening or social recruiting. No matter the term, more than 90 percent of employers say they use social media to find employees.

For most employers, this online screening is an important part of their due diligence – using public information posted by the candidates themselves. If you, like most employers, are planning on looking into the Internet presence of your potential hires, here are a few ways to make sure you do it right.

1. Start With a Search

GoogleYou may be surprised just how much information you can find with a Google search, but it would be your first step when digging into a potential employee. Of course, a search can become clouded with results if a candidate has a common name, so dig a bit deeper into their resume to cross-reference employment claims, association membership or volunteer work. Google can supply a wealth of information if you can target your search properly. Opening a Google Alert on each of your candidates’ names can provide ongoing monitoring throughout the application and interview process.

2. Don’t Wait to Check Their Profiles

If you want to get an accurate view of a candidate’s social media profile, it is important to be proactive. Start researching them before your first contact to arrange an interview or call. Though they are actively searching for jobs, many candidates can be short-sighted in regards to their online personas, only cleaning them up once they know someone is interested. However, a 2010 Technisource study showed that 50 percent of applicants would not change or delete content from their profiles, even if they knew a potential employer would be checking their page.

3. Look for Repetitive Behavior, Not Isolated Incidents

Taken on their own, some pictures or status updates should not immediately invalidate an applicant. It’s important to be realistic about employee behavior. Look beyond occasional images and posts to see if the applicant has a personality or sense of humor that would fit with your company. Only if the candidate shows a pattern of objectionable behavior should you consider losing their application.

4. Find Candidates Who Build a Brand

While too many potential employees may torpedo their job hopes with inappropriate pictures, political rants or dubious associations, just as many will be responsible administrators of their online persona. These candidates will be readily identifiable with even modest digging. Here are a few things to look for on major social networks:

  • Facebook – Look for candidates who share content related to their industry, rather than updates about where they partied last night. Even better, just stick to the Info Page to get a sense of how the candidate portrays themselves. This might not show you who is a party animal, but it will help you avoid some ethical and legal gray areas.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn should be every recruiter’s dream. Many people will use it just to share their job status and resumes, but with the wide range of discussion forums and online networking tools, LinkedIn makes it easy to identify candidates who are engaged in the industry and looking to advance. Of all the social networks, searching LinkedIn should give the clearest snapshot of what sort of employee a candidate might be.
  • TwitterTwitter gives much more visibility for online screening, and it can say a lot about any candidate. While Facebook pictures can tell you a lot about someone, how a candidate interacts with a global audience can be more telling. Look for people who engage positively and intelligibly with people and companies.

5. Don’t Penalize Responsible Candidates

It can be tempting to respond negatively to prospective employees who have their online presence so locked-down (or nonexistent) that you can’t find any information on them. Is this candidate too good to be true or just hiding something? More often than not, it just means that the candidate is a responsible manager of their online presence.

Negativity bias is a natural thing for recruiters who are denied information, but a potential employee who is responsible enough to tend their social media will probably make a responsible employee. Rather than penalizing employees who show little information, dig into the information they have provided. Call their references, dig through their contacts on LinkedIn and prepare some extra questions for an interview.

6. Be Consistent With Your Screening

While these public online searches may not be as regulated as a background check, employers should still be careful with what they find. It’s easy to discriminate with information found online, especially since people willingly provide so much through social media. Make sure that you are only screening candidates to see if they would be an appropriate fit for your company culture and work ethic. It is much harder for a candidate to prove discrimination occurred following an online search, but creating inconsistent screening methods is an easy way to land in hot water.

7. Follow Up With Candidates

Finally, don’t let your screening be the end of the story. If a candidate looks like a great employee on paper, don’t let a few online indiscretions rule them out. Follow up on their interests and passions in an interview and ask for reasonable clarification of any concerns you may have.

Cara Barone is the Social Media Marketing Manager at Kforce, a provider of staffing and solutions. Cara also manages Knowledge Employed, a career advice blog for job hunters, seasoned employees and hiring managers. Follow her on Twitter: @CaraBarone

photo by: Juancho 507

Guest Author

This post is written by a guest author. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, check out our Guest Post Guidelines - we look forward to hearing from you!