The number of employers who use outlets like Facebook and Twitter for screening has exploded over the last 10 years. For example, in 2011, only 11% of businesses used social media for background purposes.
Today, the rate has soared to 60%, according to polling data from online job search engine CareerBuilder.
"Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter," said Rosemary Haefner, chief of human resources at CareerBuilder. "And with more and more people using social media, it's not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well."
49% found info that made them think twice
Frequently, social media has clued employers into details that they may not have known otherwise. Nearly 50% of hiring managers who use social media to screen hires say they've decided against extending job offers after learning of something unsavory, the poll found, including the use of illegal drugs, discriminatory comments as well as inappropriate photographs and/or video clips.
While some may claim that business owners' and hiring managers' using social media in the hiring process is an invasion of privacy, others say it plays a crucial role that may be the difference between making a good or bad recruitment decision.
"Employers can minimize the legal risks and maximize the business benefits of social media if the screening is part of the reference or background check that is made before extending an offer or after extending a conditional offer," said Jonathan Segal, an employment practices attorney and contributing editor at HR Magazine.
In some cases, you may find information that substantiates why hiring applicants is a smart move. Nearly one-third of employers in the CareerBuilder poll indicated as much, with 44% saying the venue enabled them to confirm candidates had the necessary job qualifications.
Using social media for screening purposes is an effective tool, but it can land you in hot water if you overstep your boundaries. The Society for Human Resource Management has several suggestions that can help you find the right balance.