How HR Professionals Analyze Your Facebook Profile

In August 14, 2009 I wrote about how web visitors are flocking to career sites such as Hotjobs and Monster during the current recession. More than 65 million visitors checked out career sites in June 2009. This is great news for career sites because that provides a lot of leads for the HR professionals that post jobs at career sites.

How do HR professionals check on those leads?

Turns out that about 45% of HR professionals in the United States are using at least one social network to check on those leads.

Undergraduate and graduate students, listen up!

That means that your career counselor is not kidding around when saying that you need to clean up your social network pages.

How HR Professionals Analyze Your Facebook Profile

These are the top tools that U.S. HR professionals use to screen job applicants. A summer 2009 survey conducted by Harris Interactive for indicates that 47% of U.S. HR professionals use Google to search for the names of their job candidates. 29% of U.S. HR professionals use Facebook and only 26% use LinkedIn.

The findings were more likely to get candidates rejected than hired: 35% of HR professionals said social networking content had caused them to eliminate a candidate, while only 18% reported deciding to employ someone based on a profile.

Take note of the top reasons that a HR professional will reject your job application after looking at your Facebook profile:

It is not a surprise that the 2 top reasons that people get rejected based on their Facebook profile are “provocative or inappropriate photographs or information” and “information about drinking and using drugs”.

However, there are job applicants that really stand out as great candidates after their social networks profiles have been screened. Specifically, HR professionals are looking for a match between the applicant’s personality and the company’s culture.

What are some great social network practices?

Take a look at the list below. Some are very specific to LinkedIn (“other people posted great references about the job candidate”) but the general theme is a good mix of professionalism, creativity, and character.

Author: Damian Davila

Ideas and concepts from Damian Davila, Ecuatoriano thriving in Hawaii. Pro marketer and blogger. Find him at @idaconcpts on Twitter.

16 thoughts on “How HR Professionals Analyze Your Facebook Profile”

  1. Hello Anne,

    There is no straightforward answer to your question. It all depends.

    1. It depends on the privacy settings set on your Facebook profile. Some people have no privacy settings at all.

    2. Even if you have some kind of privacy setting, your profile will still show your profile picture. If your profile picture shows you engaging in drinking or use of drugs, the HR professional needs to look no further. Your CV would probably no longer be considered.

    3. Even if you have some kind of privacy setting, your profile will show which friends do you have in common (if any) with other Facebook people searching for your profile. Most HR professionals have large Facebook networks (not just their own profile but they also use the profiles of their staff) when screening for possible “bad apples” from their pool of applicants.

    I highly recommend to everybody to keep their Facebook profile tidy and neat at all times, you never know who’s watching.

    Aloha from Hawaii,


  2. Anyone have thoughts on the legality of this practice?

    My understanding is that any review of background or history that could lead to a candidate not being considered falls under the FCRA. Therefore you’d have to have a release to do the search in the first place. I understand it’s near impossible to prove you were not considered after a Facebook search… and that’s the biggest concern. Is there an application that can tell who has viewed your page?

    I would second the comment above, just because you’ve got a privacy setting and de-tag yourself in friends stupid pictures doesn’t mean a recruiter won’t go looking for the dirt… Do everything you can to present a clear picture of yourself and your values, and eliminate anything that doesn’t fit with that picture.

  3. Regarding your question:

    In August 2009, blogger Marylene Delbourg-Delphis conducted an informal poll regarding Facebook.

    She asked what people would do if they were asked to pull up their Facebook page during a job interview.

    Just 11.7% of respondents would willingly reveal their profile. 8% would just walk out of the interview. It’s a touchy issue.

    I really don’t know about the legality of this practice. I hope some HR specialists could provide some light into this issue. Let me see if the HR guy at our office knows a bit about it.

    Regarding the application that tells who has viewed your page, I’ve seen plenty of ads on Facebook and Myspace that advertise about this feature. However, I am a bit of a skeptic about them. Most of them appear to be farming Facebook and Myspace usernames and passwords for malicious purposes.

  4. As an HR Professional with 18yrs of recruiting and sourcing under my belt, I can tell you that I cannot stand this idea of “snooping” into facebook or myspace or twitter accounts.

    I ask my colleagues who do this two questions:
    Are we looking for perfect candidates?
    How can we prove we didn’t hire the candidate because he’s (insert protected class here), or maybe he just had pictures of a gay/race related/religious affiliated/political/fundraiser for a debilitating disease event because his wife made him go.

    Yes, its an FCRA issue – but its also an issue of I don’t WANT to know that much about my employees. Its bad enough that I get vivid description of symptoms when they’ve been out sick and hear about their lovers spats.

    I run bg checks and drug screens. I have a random drug program in place (drivers and heavy equipment operators) That’s enough.

    And I don’t “friend” my employees either.
    And honestly, I don’t want to work for a company that checks those types of accounts. Frankly, its nobody’s business unless it impacts the business directly.

    I know plenty of wild partiers who are completely capable of running multimillion dollar business, and I don’t need facebook to tell me they stay out til 3am with booze and men-not-their-husbands in a hot tub with a lampshade on their head.

  5. Hello Tammi,

    Thank you for your comment. Given your professional experience in HR, your feedback is very important when analyzing the use of Facebook by HR professionals. I completely agree with you in that the increased use of online social networks in all aspects of our lifes is blurring the line between our professional and private lifes.

    I was wondering if you could provide more details about the FCRA implications of use of Facebook by HR professionals. It is something that lots of people are interested in learning more about.

    As a marketing professional, it is hard for me not to find myself involved with companies that don’t have some form of online social network presence. However, I do have to admit that I have yet to encounter a company that has strict guidelines about how we portray ourselves online. On the other hand, I can tell you that there institutions that do have very strict guidelines about the interaction that they want on their Facebook groups or pages.

    Thank you again for your comments and I look forward to learn more about the FCRA issues that come from HR professionals using Facebook to screen job applicants.

    Damian Davila Rojas

  6. While not an expert in FCRA, I can see why there is concern about social media and FRCA. Yes, it is good to be concerned about the potential impact of Fair Credit Reporting Act-it would be a VERY broad definition of a “Credit Reporting Agency” to include social media sites and, arguably, outside of the intended and stated scope of the act. See for the definition of “Credit Reporting Agencies”

    Additionally, unlike Credit Reporting Agencies, most of the Social Media content is published/created by the applicant and presumably with their consent and with the ability to correct. (Here is where we can talk about Tagged pictures again and the importance of controlling what is said about you).

    That is just my take. What do others think?

  7. It certainly is much easier to get a rejected based on your Facebook profile than it is to land a job due to it. However, when you graduate, you should make an effort to make your Facebook page more professional. Remove questionable content and add material aimed at professional goals.

  8. I am hoping you would be interested in contributing your insights to my research (as a culminating research project for my graduate degree from University of La Verne) on Hiring Managers/Recruiters using social networking sites to screen prospective candidates. I’ve included the survey link below. I greatly apppreciate your time!

    Best regards,
    Rosalie Peterson
    graduate student ULV

  9. This is from HR pro’s perspective, opinion elites and the best next generation are online, the staff at your company you want to keep who are going to lead in the near future, and candidates you want to meet and hire they are already online now, or maybe soon. So you should be too!

  10. Thank you for this insightful article and the helpful comments! I am preparing a Seminar on Social Networking for Job Seekers and am happy to find a good reference on how and why Hiring Managers use Facebook.

  11. Damian:
    Thank you for re-posting this Facebook/HR information–and the related back-and-forth discussion. There is great stuff here that brings new meaning to the phrase “Food for thought…”

  12. Aloha Larry,
    Glad that you found the article useful. The conversation on the comment section is great so that is why I am always happy to share it.
    Have a great day,

  13. It is strange to know that Facebook Profile could affect your career and that too so badly!
    HRs found this very useful tool to get idea about candidate because whatever you post reflects some or the other things about you.
    Damian, Do you know even you can analyze your Facebook profile yourself using Wolfram|Alpha. I just did and it revealed pretty interesting stuffs analytic way with statistical data about yourself. Maybe you should give a try-

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