Whether it's part of your official screening practice, or you casually glance at a job candidate's social media profile on Facebook, considering online activity as part of the hiring process has challenges for both the company and the applicant.
A 2016 survey by SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management) confirmed that 84 percent of employers use social media to recruit job candidates, and almost 50 percent consider the results of social media searches to screen candidates. While various States debate the legality of such practices, and candidates are advised to be more mindful about their online behaviors, consider these questions when evaluating a candidate's online activity:
- Am I judging this person based on one post or multiple posts? While we can judge someone based on one comment, more context would explain the post or photo posted online. Taking a complete view of someone's online presence helps explain a one-off, out-of-character comment, or a post made while having a bad day. If more often than not the candidate posts about things consistent with the person you interviewed, then that is likely who they genuinely are.
- Was the comment, photo, or post done in the context of a military deployment? A post made under extreme stress, pressure, homesickness, or exhaustion does not represent the entire personality and capability of the candidate. Consider that during deployment -- and combat -- many service members use social media to stay connected to home and keep each other's morale high. The posts might look inappropriate to a civilian, but in the context in which it was made, that post could serve a life-saving purpose.
- Does this post or profile indicate conflicting values with our company? Military values of honor, integrity, service, and selflessness sometimes represent themselves as humbleness, modesty, or reticence in the eyes of civilians. A candidate who posts about the successes of others (and deflects praise for himself), or rejects compliments or gratitude for her service, is likely following the military practice of "service before self" out of respect for those who they served alongside.
- If the candidate posts photos of himself or herself in uniform or in combat situations, could that mean they aren't fully transitioned? Consider the timing -- someone who recently separated or retired might still closely identify with the relationships and work they just left. This doesn't mean they aren't ready to work for you or build new connections.
- Am I forming a judgment based on whom they are connected to? In a military setting, service members interact and work alongside people from all different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and experiences. What unifies them is their commitment to a common goal of service to country. Consider this before judging a candidate based on the company they keep, in this context.
Considering a job candidate's online profiles can create a holistic view of who they are, what they value, and where they place their priorities. When someone posts about their love of their family, their hobbies and interests, and the ways they spend their time, employers see a more well-rounded candidate. My best advice: Consider the context of the posts, and look at the whole person across many platforms. This likely will showcase the candidate most genuinely.