To stalk or not to stalk?

Is it okay for future employers to stalk potential candidates’ Instagram profile?

It is no secret that if you go to an interview and you thought it went brilliant, but shockingly you heard nothing back from the company, the chances are that the employer may have checked your social media and found something controversial, which can lead to serious repercussions within your employment opportunities.

Due to the high volume of people who use social media to document their personal lives, values and day to day activities, this has spurred around 70% of employers to check candidate’s social media before the interviewing and hiring process. This has sparked many debates on whether ‘stalking’ candidate’s social media is ethically right as this could lead to a biased judgment or even discrimination.

Around 54% of employers admit that when looking at potential candidate’s social media, they often reject them based on social media information. But how exactly is this an issue? Basing your view on a potential employee purely on their personal lives is exactly the issue itself. A person’s personal life and what this person may do or post is, not work related and beyond working hours, so to judge them on everything else but their ability and success in a work-related environment seems rather unfair.

To add to this, most social media checks have a negative and biased intention right from the start. This means that the probability of a potential candidate actually getting screened out based on how they appear on Instagram  or another social media platform is very likely. 

The problem with social media checks is that they can facilitate an unconscious bias before the candidate has even had a chance to prove themselves and succeed. While it is perfectly legal for businesses to monitor and check employees’ social media, widely popular opinion is that this stalking strategy should only be used when there is a concern and valid reason to get involved.

Another risk that comes with checking employees or potential candidate’s Instagram is that not everyone’s social media names correspond with their name. There is a very high chance that an employee could base their views and judgement on the completely wrong person. Most hiring managers or employees that regulate social media checks are often not trained to check social media profiles accurately, which can generate problems such as checking the wrong person. Dr John. Sullivan wrote the article ‘Top 10 reasons why social media background checks are a dumb idea and states that managers or employees who do undertake social media background checking should ‘make sure that checkers are discounting information that is more than three years old’.

However, checking potential employees’ social media accounts is often done for the right reasons and not to intentionally invade an individual’s privacy. It is often done to protect the reputation of the company as social media can be an immediate medium of information. This strategy t can be an efficient way to check the personality of an employee or candidate. If upon checking Instagram a potential candidate has been recently posting racist, sexist and homophobic posts, screening this candidate out of the hiring process would be a good idea as this would jeopardise the companies reputation where their values and morals do not tolerate this behaviour.

Using social media correctly could work in your favour if you are going through the hiring process yourself.  

Using social media to your advantage and using it wisely could prove extremely useful if a hiring manager does happen to check your profile. 

If you are a millennial or Gen Z and have good background knowledge on how to filter out or emphasise information on your profiles, this could be a great way of showing you are a perfect match for any employee role. Gaining a good following on Instagram and sharing content that aligns with your morals and values, will inevitably leave a good impression and persuade your potential employer you are a perfect candidate. 

Linkedin is always a great platform to become involved in, as this business platform that has elements of a social media and whilst regularly updating your information on gaining connections with other people on Linkedin, will impress your potential employee and show them that you would be a great and professional asset to their company.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this rather controversial topic. Do you agree with potential employers checking your social media during the hiring process or do you believe that this is going beyond their role as an employer?

By Ella Berry, Shoo Academy