HR professionals report that online activity is increasingly influential in the hiring process; trend is ‘worrying’, say recruitment experts

More than half (56 per cent) of UK employers admit that candidates’ online profiles actively influence their hiring decisions, according to a new survey that highlights the increasing integration of social media into the recruitment process.

The research, from jobs board Monster and YouGov, suggests most HR professionals actively consult social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook during the hiring process.

Around a third (36 per cent) of the 4,000 HR professionals surveyed said they had declined to interview a candidate, or had rejected an applicant they had already interviewed, after checking their social media posts, while 65 per cent Googled prospective employees.

The process works both ways, however: 28 per cent of jobseekers said their view of an organisation was influenced by what they read about it on websites such as Glassdoor, and they were less likely to apply if they formed an unfavourable impression.

Andy Sumner, managing director for Monster UK & Ireland, said: “More and more employees and employers are looking for a good cultural fit, so often a Google search will tell a recruiter more than a CV can. Candidates should think about what they use each channel for – whether personal or professional – to build a profile for themselves. The same applies to employers. The external employer brand of a business is really significant when attracting talent – so recruiters should think of the image they are projecting as an organisation, as well as spending time using social media to understand their interviewees.”   

Around half (48 per cent) of jobseekers are conscious of how their online reputation looks to potential employers, and 20 per cent of young people say they are very aware of how their online reputation could impact on job prospects. This compares to 33 per cent who either do not care or think about their social media persona.

At the same time, data tools are making their way on to the market, which enable recruiters to actively mine and analyse social media profiles. For example, Recruit Assured deploys algorithms to understand how many times the candidate has posted keywords, which can be used to assess how ‘suitable’ they are.

David D’Souza, head of London and head of engagement (branches) at the CIPD, said organisations should recognise that Facebook posts – unlike those on LinkedIn – aren’t intended to be part of the job application process. “For employers to take that information out of context is a worrying trend,” he said.

Sumner added: “While it's important to manage your profile and think about privacy settings, social media can also be a really powerful tool to build a personal brand and make a candidate really attractive to an employer.”