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Career Management: Social media and your career


Mh2>Poll finds that swearing on Twitter or a drunken picture on Facebook could lose you a job offer, but showing industry knowledge and passion online can enhance your career management.

A new YouGov online poll commissioned by CWJobs has revealed that employers will often take candidates’ online presence and social media activity into consideration when deciding whether or not to hire them.

638 business decision makers online were asked if they conducted online research of candidates, and if they did, whether it affected their hiring decisions.  And it seems that most employers do, with only 19% of respondents saying they don’t look up potential employees online.

57% of respondents said they would ‘Google a candidate’s name to see what came up’, with the same number saying they would check a jobseeker’s CV against professional networks like LinkedIn, to ensure it matched up. The Media & Marketing industry in particular turned out to be the most likely to run a name through Google (72%), followed by Finance & Accounting (63%) and IT & telecoms (57%).

Other online research methods included:

  • Looking at an applicant’s social profiles (43%)
  • Looking specifically for images (28%)
  • Searching for blog and forum comments (26%)

In addition to this, 17% of respondents said physical appearance in profile pictures could negatively affect their hiring decisions, indicating that how applicants look on social media matters to them.

When asked the reasons for carrying out online research in the first place, the majority (61%) stated they’d be checking on character, including looking for signs around ‘ethics, honesty, and manners’. 43% are searching for any past problems, such as news stories about the applicant which may highlight past concerns, while 31% said they researched candidates just ‘out of curiosity’.

When asked what might negatively affect a candidate’s chances of employment when conducting an online search of them, top answers included:

  • Offensive language (67%)
  • Aggressive tone (63%)
  • Images showing drunkenness, rudeness or illegal activity (53%)
  • Poor subject/industry knowledge shown in posts/comments (51%)
  • Over promotion of themselves (41%)

Although, 19% liked candidates who modestly highlighted their achievements, and 37% said that seeing candidates displaying good critical thinking skills through debate would have a positive effect.

When asked to share their experiences of carrying out online research into candidates, respondent’s stories included declining interviews, and even retracting job offers after online research.

“Withdrew a job offer after seeing comments posted on social media in which the candidate suggested he had got the job by exaggerating his CV,” was a comment given from one respondent. “Researched one individual who boasted on Facebook that he was taking duvet days. Not acceptable,” stated another.

Others mentioned inappropriate images they’d seen on social media. Comments given included seeing, “A phallic object as a profile picture”, “Smoking a joint in their Facebook image”, and photographs showing “drunken and immature behaviour”.

Other stories included finding evidence of extremist views, membership to extreme organisations, misogyny, and racist attitudes. Respondents also found personal biographies on social media accounts where separate people referred to themselves as “Queen Bitch”, “Bitch Kate” and “Full-Time Dickhead through Choice”.

There were several examples of mis-matching information between candidates CVs and LinkedIn too, including “inaccuracies about their career experience” and “A candidate who claimed to have worked for a certain company for a certain period who had another history on LinkedIn”.

One reply from an anonymous respondent was questionable in its legality. They said, “Member of a political party – the rest of the company wouldn’t employ the individual as he voted YES in the Scottish referendum.”

And some respondents told stories of what happens when not enough online research had been done before hiring the candidate. One in particular said, “We had a girl join one of our sales teams who I had met before, and wasn’t impressed with her level of professionalism. After some months she started an affair with one of the senior managers, and was caught out as her manager saw her at his house during working hours. She was dismissed. On further investigation she had also stalked a footballer and sold a story to a national newspaper that she was having an affair with him. She also stole a pregnancy scan from a friend and was telling everyone she was pregnant! She was a nightmare. Where was the due diligence?”

However, there were some positive comments regarding the use of online research, including “Checked candidate’s claims regarding career experience – and they all checked out. Hired!” Showing that a candidate’s online behaviour can have both positive and negative consequences when it comes to looking for a new job.

See the full results of the poll, including all questions and answers and with data visualisation here.


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 638 Decision Makers from British Businesses. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th and 12th June 2015.  The survey was carried out online.