Researchers at Penn State just released an interesting study about how job candidates’ social media activity can impact hireability.  Previous studies show that up to 70% of employers look at candidates’ social media activity when doing their due diligence in the hiring process—and we all know it’s a very common practice by hiring managers.

In the recent Penn State study, they examined three potentially negative topics: self-absorption, opinionatedness, and alcohol and drug use.  They recruited 436 managers and ran them through a number of hypothetical situations and were able to confirm that the presence of social media posts on these three topics did in fact negatively impact hireability (self-absorption and opinionatedness having the biggest negative impact; alcohol and drug use—which was only displayed in moderate ways in the study—having the least negative impact).

By the way, the EEOC isn’t particularly fond of employers doing social media checks as part of the hiring process, but they lack the authority to prohibit it.  It is important to point out that social media checks can expose managers to discrimination claims based upon the information they discover about the candidate online.  If an employer wants to do social media checks, the best/safest method is to have someone removed from the hiring decision (e.g., HR) do the check, thus shielding the hiring manager from encountering potentially discriminatory information. Consistency in the practice can also be important (e.g., why did the employer only do social media checks on minority candidates?)

This information is not intended to be legal advice.