Interesting news for employers: a November 25, 2013 article in the Triangle Business Journal titled “N.C. State research: Screening Facebook profiles could alienate top job candidates” shares research results that indicate job seekers have a negative view of prospective employers that screened Facebook profiles for professionalism. Possibly even more importantly, research results indicate that “in some cases, social media screening even increases the likelihood that job candidates may take legal action against the offending company.”

How Job Seekers React to Employers Social Media Checks

The research done at North Carolina State University was published in a paper titled “Examining Applicant Reactions to the Use of Social Networking Websites in Pre-Employment Screening” in the November 2013 Journal of Business and Psychology. Its purpose was to see how job seekers react to employers viewing their social media sites when screening applicants.

When Social Media Checks Help Determine the Job Outcome

The results were obtained from two separate studies. A press release issued by North Carolina State University provided details about the each study. In the first, 175 job seekers were told that when they had applied for a position, their Facebook profiles were “reviewed for “professionalism,” and that a decision on whether they’d been hired was forthcoming.” Two thirds of the job seekers reported looking at the company more negatively, feeling it “was an invasion of privacy that reflected poorly on the company.”

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In the second, researchers asked 208 people to imagine a scenario where a potential employer reviewed their Facebook profile for professionalism. Half were asked what their response would be if they got the job and the rest were questioned about their response had they not received the job offer. Results indicated that whether or not the job was offered, 60 percent of all the respondents viewed the potential employers in a negative light.

A potentially serious result for employers taken from the second study was the reaction of 59 percent of participants, which indicated they would be more likely to take legal action against the company for invasion of privacy (note, this question was not included in the first study).

When Social Media Checks May Help Determine the Job Outcome

So employers, as you review your pre-employment screening program, you may want to examine your social media screening policies. If you’re using social media, consider what one researcher and co-author, Professor of Psychology Lori Foster Thompson, Ph.D., had to say about the results of the study. “This research tells us that companies need to carefully weigh whatever advantage they believe they get from social media screening against the increased likelihood of alienating potential employees.”

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