New Survey Finds 37 Percent of Companies Use Social Media Sites to Research Job Candidates

According to a new survey on the use of social media sites by employers to evaluate job candidates from CareerBuilder®, the largest online career site in the United States, nearly two in five companies – 37 percent – use social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to research job candidates. An InfoGraphic of the survey, which included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals in the U.S. across industries and company sizes, is available at:

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder between February 2012 and March 2012, found that 15 percent of the employers who did not research candidates on social media said their company prohibited the practice. In addition, 11 percent reported they did not currently use social media to screen, but planned to start. When hiring managers and human resource professionals were asked why they used social media to conduct background research, they survey found:

  • 65 percent said to see if the candidate presents himself/herself professionally.
  • 51 percent said to see if the candidate is a good fit for the company culture.
  • 45 percent said to learn more about the candidate’s qualifications.
  • 35 percent said to see if the candidate is well-rounded.
  • 12 percent said to look for reasons not to hire the candidate.

As for whether social was media helping or hurting job candidates, more than one third – 34 percent – of survey respondents currently researching candidates via social media said they have found information, ranging from evidence of inappropriate behavior to information that contradicted their listed qualifications, that caused them not to hire a candidate. More specifically, the survey found:

  • 49 percent said the candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos/information.
  • 45 percent said there was information about the candidate drinking or using drugs.
  • 35 percent said the candidate had poor communication skills.
  • 33 percent said the candidate bad mouthed previous employer.
  • 28 percent said the candidate made discriminatory comments about race, gender, or religion.
  • 22 percent said the candidate lied about qualifications.

However, while screening for “red flags” was one a reason for social media research, employers also found information that gave a job candidate an advantage. Nearly three in ten survey respondents – 29 percent – said social media screening caused them to hire a candidate and cited the following examples:

  • 58 percent said a good feel for the candidate’s personality.
  • 55 percent said the candidate conveyed a professional image.
  • 54 percent said background information supported professional qualifications.
  • 51 percent said the candidate was well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests.
  • 49 percent said the candidate had great communication skills.
  • 44 percent said the candidate was creative.
  • 34 percent said other people posted great references about the candidate.

As for what social media sites employers primarily used to research job candidates, the survey found:

  • 65 percent of employers used Facebook.
  • 63 percent of employers used LinkedIn.
  • 16 percent of employers used Twitter.

But employers should approach so-called “social media background checks” that use the Internet to screen job candidates with extreme caution, according to a San Francisco-area based safe hiring expert.

“Employers have discovered a treasure trove of information about job candidates on social media sites such as Facebook with social media background checks,” says Attorney Les Rosen, CEO of background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR). “However, using the social media to screen job candidates can lead to legal trouble since information found online is not always risk free or even true.”

Rosen, author of a comprehensive guide to employment screening called ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ says employers in the digital age are in a “Catch 22” situation with social media background checks. “Failure to utilize social media resources can arguably be the basis of a negligent hiring claim if an unfit person was hired for a position where a search online may have raised a red flag,” he warns. “Conversely, employers face numerous pitfalls that can include issues with privacy, discrimination, and accuracy.”

To help employers better understand the legal dangers that come with social media background checks and solutions to avoid them, Rosen has authored a white paper, ‘Managing the Risks of Using the Internet for Employment Screening Background Checks.’ Recently updated in March 2012, the complimentary white paper is available on the ESR web site at

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and a nationwide background screening firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at or call 415.898.0044 or Toll Free 888.999.0044.

Read ESR News blogs about ‘Social Media Background Checks’ at:

Read ESR News blogs about ‘Social Networking Sites’ at:


About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percentage of screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit or call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474.

About ESR News: The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at