Recruiters ARE Using Social Media (But Not Like You Think)

By now, you know recruiters and hiring managers are checking you out on social media.

However, most job seekers seem to think we’re only looking for keg-stand pics or some other arbitrary reason not to hire you; bad-mouthing your old boss, for example.

And they would be wrong.

When recruiters – some of whom have these social media reference checks down to a science – look into your social media, they are looking at much more than just your character (and some of it is just downright scary)…

Culture Fit

After the requisite search for the underwear-on-your-head pics, the next step for the recruiter is determining your fit within their company – and the position.

Do you use a high-percentage of swear words? Are you overly confrontational? Are you hyper-adamant in your political beliefs? Are you sensitive when it comes to diversity issues like race, religion and sexual orientation? Even the slightest miscue, like innocently calling a best friend a name considered insensitive in some circles, puts your candidacy at risk.

On the other hand, do you display a sense of humor? How do you handle negative comments from others? Are you happy for others as they achieve? However they define it personally, recruiters like to hire those they like and/or respect… because it sure helps if team members like and respect each other.

Are you likeable?

Personal Branding Inconsistencies

The next step in the social media scan: a look at your character and  integrity. Are you who you say you are?

The warning signs during this critical stage are 99.9% self-inflicted. For instance, and in the most obvious case, you list “work ethic” as a marketable soft skill – yet consistently tweet, “Gawd, will this day ever end!!!” Or, in one very real case, talk about how you passionately support Special Olympics, yet refer to your friends in casual posts as “retards”.

Being consistent in your online branding and social media isn’t difficult – for the honest and genuine.

Are you authentic?

Written Communication Skills

Here’s what recruiters know (even though most job seekers fail in this area): you have all the time in the world, and almost anyone can get the right kind of help, to write a good cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile.

Social media, however, is often spontaneous. You don’t always take the to time to spell-check, enter full words and sentences or engage the filters required to keep you from posting something stupid, or poorly written. In other words, what you write in social media is the “real” you – the version who will be representing their company – often in spontaneous, pressure filled situations.

Are you a communicator?

Trending Health Issues

This may be the least known factor of a recruiter’s check of your social media…

Do you often complain that you aren’t feeling well? Does the whole world know when you have a bad headache? How often do you call in sick? If, through your social media interactions, the recruiter gets the idea that you’re a whiner, a hypochondriac or dependent on the sympathy of others… they’ll assume that is how you’ll be in the workplace. And on Facebook, they can go back months and months to spot trends.

For a creepy look at how far this aspect of tracking your social media could go, take a look at this post from HR Capitalist.

Are you dependable?

Lifestyle Changes

A recruiter hires for today’s version of the long-term. They want to know that for at least two to three years, you will remain the person they hired you for – and that you’ll be able make this job your highest priority.

They do that by looking for red flags in your social media. For instance, you may talk about how you can’t wait to move back home (and the physical location of this job is not in the same city as home). You may have a post about your impeding marriage next spring, and how you can’t wait to start a family. They might even see how upset you are that your parents are getting a divorce, or that you need to spend a great deal of time with your ailing grandmother with Alzheimer’s.

Any indication that your focus will be elsewhere – as seen through your posts on social media sites – may cost you an interview.

Are you focused?

Yes, recruiters do use social media – for a lot more than you think, at a deeper level than most imagine. This screening occurs well before their first conversation with you; very seldom are you given the opportunity to explain, clarify or retract. In most cases, you won’t even know they, at one time, considered you a strong candidate.

With the recruiter’s perspective in mind, take a look at your online presence. Now determine: what do your social media accounts tell recruiters, about you?


About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post,, The Daily Muse, Alltop, PRDaily, and Intern Advocate.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2011”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!



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  • Maria

    “You may have a post about your impeding marriage next spring, and how you can’t wait to start a family.”
    So any woman in child bearing years will not be hired/promoted?
    Excellent. Really excellent.

    • As a father of five, Maria, I wish this wasn’t the case. Yet, I know that anything that might be a distraction from the new hire’s focus on the job — a new marriage or a side gig, for example — does enter the recruiter’s decision-making process when deciding who gets the interview. This is an example of how careful we need to be about posting private thoughts in a public arena, not just during a job search… but always.

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  • Excellent article. Too often job seekers forget the hidden messages of their online presence. Just like in resume writing, employers get a good idea of a candidate’s communication skills in addition to the information provided.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Cindy. While this isn’t necessarily good news for candidates, the more we know about how recruiters think… the better our job search.

  • Steve Levy

    Culture Fit

    Mark, as for how I use social media to “research” people,
    let me first offer up a simple rule I use: Does what I see or read pass the “So
    what?” test. I know this rule is lost upon many recruiters and hiring managers
    when it comes to elements outside the resume but it really should apply to all.

    So when I read something “unusual” (which according to my
    thick-skinned standards might be “very unusual” to say Cyndy Trivella who lives
    in KC) I put it all into the context in which it is delivered. “Miscues” don’t
    bother me unless you make it a habit over time (time might be 6+ months) – yes,
    this really means that if I’m interested in you I read pretty much everything I
    can find about you. If your behavior sounds like you might have the potential to
    be a PITA employee then I’ll probably reach out to you and ask about your
    predilection to using expletives like I eat kettle cooked potato chips.

    The opposite side of the coin also raises eyebrows; if
    you’re overly conciliatory and won’t take a stand, I’m wondering if you ever
    get off the fence. Of course this position should also be addressed in an

    Personal Branding Inconsistencies

    How can a brand be inconsistent when most people project a
    brand they think others – employers – want to see? If you tweet out “Gawd, will this day ever
    end!!!” yet it’s 10PM and you’ve been grinding since 8AM, I’m okay. You the see
    word again is “context”; lazy recruiters and hiring managers will ping a point
    in time and extrapolate that to a character flaw. Who’s being inconsistent now?

    For me, I could care less that you’re being authentic – I
    care that you’re being honest. Believe me – that matters…

    Written Communication Skills

    When you put your faith in technology, your resume, etc.
    tell me that you’re the Account Manger for a major Pubic Relations firm.

    Spontaneity is not an excuse for not thinking; yet the
    limitations of 140 often require you to shorten stuff and sometimes it just
    reads stupid.

    Like email in the bygone days, review and think before you

    Trending Health Issues

    I don’t care about your sickness if your work appears to
    show me that you “git er done” and frankly there are employment laws that make
    denying people “employment” for health issues a crime.

    Frankly if companies really want to go this far to deny
    employment and enter the “I can’t believe you’re that stupid” contest, why not
    simply deny all non-menopausal women the chance to work?

    Lifestyle Changes

    Mark, I had to really think about this. The phrase
    “indentured servitude” then came to mind. Then the highly touted “work-life balance”.

    So if recruiters are looking to DQ you then I’d say there
    are many schizophrenic companies out there.

    Since you might remember that my Mom died of Cancer and
    Alzheimer’s, I hope you allow me to indulge young job seekers whose parents
    might be going through a divorce or one of their grandparents: Life happens.
    Now I might have an issue with how you share such personal stuff on social
    media, I also know that this is one true generational difference.

    Still, I’ll look at what you’re offering and balance that
    with what you can offer me as an employee.
    Life happens and it’s your choice to share it; again, does it pass the “so
    what?” test.

    As in the previous section, most of the “issues” you wrote
    about have the potential to morph into a litigious nightmare if used to deny

    So yes, many recruiters look at your social stream when
    sourcing and recruiting but here’s the one big difference between the really
    great recruiters and the really bad ones: The really great ones use all the
    available information to INCLUDE you while the crappy ones use the same
    information to EXCLUDE you.


    • You make good points here: inconsistencies, schizophrenia, unfairness and existing employment laws among them. However, we know that recruiters have so many candidates to choose from that this stuff does happen, every day. We also know that the last thing question a recruiter wants to answer is: “You knew this about the candidate, and you hired him anyway?”

      Your most important point: “…the one big difference between the really great recruiters and the really bad ones: The great ones use all the available information to INCLUDE you while the crappy ones use the same information to EXCLUDE you.”

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