Should Employers Stalk Candidates on Social Media?

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When a company is looking to employ someone new, it is common for the recruiter to stalk a candidate’s social media. The question I’m posing today is whether or not this should be a common practice? The Harris survey discovered that67% of recruiters employ social media platforms to research candidate profiles.

The same survey found that 70% of people felt it was necessary to screen candidates’ social media. Only 21% said they do not use this tactic.

Keep reading to discover the pros and cons and decipher whether this approach is ethical.

Should Personal and Professional Affairs Be Kept Separate?

Is it reasonable to assume that employers should hold someone’s personal and professional life to a different standard? If a recruiter stalks a candidate’s social media, it could establish a biased intention from the very beginning. The candidate has been judged on their lifestyle rather than their work. This is only a distraction from a potentially fantastic asset for the business.

Let’s look at it this way. Does a person’s beach pictures of them lounging in their swimwear affect their work ethic? Does the fact that they went to a club on the weekend indicate they are untrustworthy? Do a couple of swear words in an Instagram caption negate the fact the candidate is responsible and hardworking?

We don’t know. Perhaps these things indicate they will be a poor worker, or this kind of thinking is stereotypical and counterproductive. Establishing a prejudice against these things could potentially deter the recruiter from offering an opportunity to the perfect candidate. 

We all wear different hats in the many segmented areas of our lives. We aren’t usually consistent when we’re with our family, friends, colleagues, boss, or home. I doubt someone would turn up in the swimsuit they wore on the weekend or with a cocktail in hand from the club they went to.

They will show up and do their job, which is what recruiters are judging. 

What Is Your Company Looking For?

There are some instances where stalking could be necessary. Perhaps the role’s requirements entail public prestige and reputation. The candidate’s online presence would need to conform to certain expectations. However, with jobs such as chefs, servers, accountants, content marketers (to name a few), this is typically not a requirement. 

We need to look at this subjectively and logically. If a company hires a sales representative whose job is to contact clients about the business’s products and services, how relevant is a crude joke made on their Facebook page to their work?

Are they sharing their details so clients can find their social platforms? Probably not, right? Everything recruiters need to know is on the resume, job interview, onboarding process, and employment.

We want to judge the sales representative’s charisma, body language, experience, and personality. The margarita they had on Wednesday night isn’t relevant to these attributes.  

I would be ignorant to disregard the benefits of social media stalking. For instance, perhaps a potential candidate posts harmful content such as sexist, racist, and homophobic posts. Knowing these discrepancies would avoid jeopardizing a company’s reputation and remaining ethically responsible.

Avoiding hiring toxic or bigoted people would be easier with viewing a candidate’s social media. It would also prove a screening process to ensure that candidates are not lying on their resumes. 

But the ethical side remains. Is social media stalking a productive screening process indeed?

While it is legal for a company to monitor and check a candidate’s social media, this stalking strategy should only be implemented if there is a valid reason.

There is a specific platform on social media that would be useful to stalk: LinkedIn. This platform was intended for recruiters to view accounts for professional reasons. LinkedIn can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s connections and work history.  

What Are the Risks of Stalking Social Media?

A predetermined bias towards an irrelevant aspect of a candidate’s life has a lot of negative implications.

A person’s personal life should be entirely their own. To avoid an unpleasant work environment, we want to avoid a bias. There is also a risk of misidentification.

There are people all over the world with the same name. So, there is a great potential that an employer could stalk the wrong person and develop a misinformed judgment. 

There is also the risk of a misunderstanding. If the candidate finds out their social profiles have been stalked, they may feel untrusted, even if this is not the intention. On top of this, an employer may misunderstand a post and refrain from offering a candidate a job. 

Where Does the Responsibility Lie?

We could ask ourselves, “Should it be up to candidates to keep their life private and not post things on social media? Or is it the company’s job not to look even if it’s public access?”

If this is a predominant question in your mind, perhaps consider it from this angle: Should we live freely and be ourselves without fear of scrutiny from the professional world? Does every factor of our lives have to tangle with another? Would anyone want past mistakes to resurface and derail their career? Sure, people could private their accounts and monitor every follower. Or maybe company’s could find other, more relevant ways to get to know a potential employee. 

While stalking LinkedIn might be more acceptable in a business situation, what else can recruiters do to vet their candidates?

References on the candidate’s resume have been the strategy for decades, and for a good reason. You want to hear about the person’s experiences and personality from the perspective of another professional.

There is also the option to reach out to previous places of work. The interview process will also allow you to determine a candidate’s character face-to-face and decide whether their personality would fit into your workplace culture.  

Now we must ask ourselves again; is social media stalking necessary? From what we’ve analyzed today, I would say no.

Our social and personal lives run a different course than our professional lives. There needs to be a boundary to thrive in both regards. We can all understand wanting the liberty to live without scrutiny, especially if it affects your livelihood.

From a company’s perspective, there are many ways to screen potential employees without digging into irrelevant information.


Madi Towner is a content Creator for Myrecruitment+.

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By Madison Towner