Employers are checking your online persona. But what are they looking for?

Written by Lexie on July 13, 2020

A woman searching on her computer and the profiles of three people.

Applying for a new job is a challenging process. One of the most frustrating aspects is the lack of feedback that a candidate receives along the way, often leading them to wonder what the cause was for them not receiving an interview or an offer.

According to Glassdoor, the average corporate posting receives over 250 applicants. As a result, many companies have turned to technology to assist with the screening process. Despite spending countless hours perfecting your resume, there is a 75% chance that it will never even be reviewed by a person.

Companies are increasingly leveraging social media scanning tools to lean on machines to better “get to know” their applicants, similar to the way they have adopted ATS (applicant tracking systems) for resume scanning and other hiring technologies. While companies are relying on machines to help them draw conclusions about you, make sure you understand what they are looking for, how they are drawing their conclusions and what you can do to best prepare for the search.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when preparing for your job search:

1. Employers are transparent about what they are tracking

When preparing your resume, application, and cover letter, it’s difficult to know the specific skills that employers value most and what you should highlight. However, when curating your online persona, employers are transparent about what they view as red flags. According to a survey by Staffing Industry Analysts of over 500 employers, the following are categories of content that can lead to a rejection: hate speech, images of heavy partying or drug use, illegal or illicit content, poor grammar, and confidential or sensitive content about former employers. Similarly, in a study by Workopolis, they found that the majority of employers do not want to see the following in a candidate’s social media: references to illegal drugs, posts of a sexual nature, use of profanity, bad spelling or grammar, and references to guns.

2. Employers are looking beyond red flags

You may have heard the phrases “company fit,” or “alignment with company values,” as something companies look for in their job candidates. Employers are motivated to find new hires who align with their company values and are using social media content to draw conclusions about how well a candidate fits. Beyond just searching your digital footprint for red flags, companies are using the content you post to make assumptions about the type of employee you would be at their company.

3. It is easier than ever for employers to search your digital footprint

In recent years, it has become easier for employers to search the internet to uncover the online persona of their applicants. First, companies are more comfortable leveraging technology in the recruiting process. This began with resume tracking tools but has now expanded to other tools and is being further amplified as we move into a more digital working environment. Second, companies such as Fama.io and GoodEgg.io are specifically designed for corporations to do such scanning. With access to new software, companies can easily integrate social media scanning as a filter in their search.

4. Imagine all the examples that do not hit the headlines

As we mentioned earlier, it can often be frustrating to receive a job rejection without any feedback as to why you did not move on. Weekly, there are major news headlines about people losing job opportunities as a result of social media content. Last month, a Harvard graduate made the news when she had her internship offer revoked by Deloitte for content posted on TikTok. Imagine how many applicants are rejected for jobs based on their social media content that do not make the news. It is much easier for a company to reject a candidate without telling them specifically whether a piece of content was a factor.

5. Assume your personal profiles are visible to professional connections

As more and more companies take to Google and screening tools to uncover your social media history, make sure your content does not become a factor into why you do not receive an offer for your dream job.

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