Through my experience building companies, including an eight-figure business, while leveraging digital and social media, I have have come to understand the double-edged sword that is social media--especially when it comes to hiring.

Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring, you're not always going to get it right. Hiring has long been an imperfect game, even before the Internet existed. Today, we treat ourselves like our own brands because we have to; in order to stay competitive, we have to serve as our own public relations teams.

Since social media's inception, professionals have abided by this unwritten rule: if you wouldn't want to see a status update or a photograph splashed across the front page of the New York Times, you shouldn't publish it to your feed. People now expect employers to search for their social profiles, and as a result, most individuals are diligent about cleaning up their feeds.

The evolution of the way we monitor and filter our digital identities is definitely positive, but it leaves employers to grapple with deciding what types of information to look for in candidates' profiles, and whether or not it's even relevant.

What We're Doing Right

According to a survey sourced by IMI Data Search, 84 percent of hiring agents utilize a search engine to find the right candidate. This is a great start to find, what I consider to be any definite red flags, which include things like news articles of arrests or incendiary online commentary. However, the breaking point comes when you actually start digging into what's on their social.

As I stated above, most individuals today maintain the basic understanding that social media plays a role in hiring; so doing your best to erase any blunders from college should be standard protocol. Maintaining clean, inoffensive social profiles not only indicates a baseline level of maturity, but it also proves to potential employers that you could positively represent their brand.

Where You Need to Pay Attention

It's important to keep in mind that social media isn't always a solid indicator of a person's character. While it's mostly positive that people try to maintain clean digital images, it also means that many individuals are experts at presenting versions of them that are miles away from the truth. In fact, I've interviewed candidates who, based on their social profiles, look like they could lead Bible study groups, but in actuality they still hadn't left their fraternity days behind. This scenario, which is an incredibly common headache for hiring managers today, further demonstrates that social media research should only comprise a portion of the candidate vetting process.

Another necessary thing to consider when looking at social media accounts are potential legal issues. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 74 percent of hiring agents feel as though there could possibly be legal repercussion for making a hiring decision based upon information discovered via social media. If violent, misogynistic, or racist social posts were ever leaked, it could potentially make your business vulnerable to legal ramifications.

The Do's And Don'ts of Examining Social Media

If anything, the overarching goal here is to use social media as just one step of the cultural vetting process. A Facebook profile will not adequately paint a picture of a candidate's capabilities or experience, but it does provide some insight into who the individual is and the values he possesses. Remember, this isn't about adhering to some archaic standard of what "professionalism" should be, but rather finding the candidate that's right for your company.

First, when it comes to professionals in their 20's, don't judge them too harshly for small things like drinking in a photo or posting obscene rap songs. These employees could be great assets to you, and to nix them based on minor infractions of un-pleasantries could be detrimental to both their career and your company.

Second, it's best not to lead with information you found on their profiles during an interview, because this could make them highly self-conscious, and could, potentially, throw the entire interview off the rails. never tell a candidate that you've looked at their social profiles. If a candidate has made it to an interview, it's best to table your social media questions and focus on getting to know who they really are, not who their social media profiles say they are.

And finally, think about what it would be like to spend a day with this person. Is this someone you can envision yourself really working closely with on a daily basis? We all have a notion of who someone is when we look at their profiles, but social media only tells a small piece of a person's story.

Published on: Jul 12, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of