How to Check a Potential Candidate’s Social Media Account​

In this article, we’ll delve into how, when, and what to check in a potential candidate’s social media footprints - and how to use it to make your hiring decisions.

As a kid, my parents and teachers taught me that it is rude to touch someone’s diary or read someone’s letter without his explicit permission. 

Then, we entered the age of the Internet and became increasingly connected with each other.

From browsing about best cars and recipes to looking for the right college or the right course to looking for the best internship of the right company for us to join, we now depend on the net to satisfy all our information needs.

Today, as an employer and a business owner, I think it is my right to find out all about a job applicant and use the information to hire the right candidates for my business. Many other recruiters believe so too.

Apparently, not everyone agrees to this.

Privacy advocates think snooping around someone’s social media account is like reading someone’s private letters or personal diary. Social Media Laws have been enacted to restrict the employers’ access to an applicant’s or an employee’s accounts.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • How the social thumbprint of a potential candidate influences the hiring decisions of potential employers?
  • When to look at a social media profile of a job applicant and what are your best sources for the information you are looking for?
  • Tools you can use to find out more about a candidate.
  • Legal aspects of screening a job applicant through social media

Red Flags (and Green Flags) in the Social Media Profile

The 2017 Recruiter National Report by Jobvite reveals that over the years, recruiters have adopted a relaxed attitude on selfies of potential candidates on social media. As opposed to 25% recruiters in 2015, only 7% recruiters in 2017 said that selfies negatively influence their opinion on a candidate.

Several US states have social media laws in place that restrict employers from asking the job applicants or existing employees from sharing their login credentials or private information. But hiring managers and recruiters are free to check the information and photos of anyone which is available in public domain.

Recruiters have a tough gig. Getting talent in the door — quality, experienced, enthusiastic, talent, no less — is difficult in a competitive, job seeker’s market

The survey also makes mention of several red flags that can push away potential employers:

👎 61% recruiters find marijuana use in the last year unacceptable;

👎 51% employers avoided candidates who indulge in political rants online;

👎 48% HR personnel frown upon spelling or grammatical errors in a candidate’s post;

👎 35% were repelled by alcohol consumption proofs candidates left on social media.

There were other reasons too. 19% interviewers didn’t like the show-off of wealth or big purchases by the job applicants while 16% didn’t like photos where candidates were dressed in revealing outfits.

12% recruiters thought that limited social presence meant that a person was not dynamic enough.

Social Media is a Minefield for Red Flags cakehr
Social media is a minefield for red flags

Assessing social media accounts of potential candidates is a great way to find the real character of the candidate – which might be hidden behind a professionally written resume and cover letter. It is an excellent way to minimize the chances of making a poor hiring decision.

Social media posts, designs, and photos may serve to impress recruiters and hiring managers if they contain green flags or the evidence of:

👍 Your written or design work (65% recruiters look for this feature)

👍 Volunteering or mentoring work or engagement with non-profits (63% recruiters found it desirable)

👍 Mutual connections (35% recruiters looked at it)

Additional Info: 22% quality talent within a company comes from social and professional networks. It is not surprising then that about 50% hiring managers actively look at social and professional networks to search for the right candidate.

Social media is a great way to reach top talent especially the ones who are the right fit for your company and have not yet applied for the job.

Where and When You Should Check Out a Candidate’s Social Footprints?

Way back in 2011, a Reppler survey shared some fantastic insights. 91% hiring managers used social networking sites to screen prospective employees. 76% looked at Facebook accounts, 53% checked Twitter, while 48% assessed LinkedIn profiles of the candidates.

The time has moved on. I’ll recommend you to check all three of them, and add Instagram and YouTube to your list of top social screen sites for potential employees. If a prospective employee has a blog, you might want to check it out too.

The bottom line is that it is important for users, whether they are looking for a job or building up their professional reputation, to manage their online image across the different social networks they use.
The bottom line is that it is important for users, whether they are looking for a job or building up their professional reputation, to manage their online image across the different social networks they use / Credit:

The survey also revealed that 47% recruiters did the background verification online after receiving the job application while 27% waited till they talked to the prospective employee first. 15% managers did it after they had a detailed conversation with the employee, and only 4% waited until the last moment before they made the offer to check the social media account of a person.

I’ll suggest you leverage your social networks as soon as you come to know about a vacancy (to look for right candidates) and check out a candidate as soon as he or she applies for the job.

The above-stated strategy will help you:

Snub the hiring process right in the bud if the candidate doesn’t seem like a good fit.


Make an excellent plan to entice him or her to join you if the candidate sounds like an ideal employee to you.

The HR’s Checklist for Screening Candidates

Mary, who is a management consultant for startups and also provides management assignment help to college students, shares her checklist for what she focuses on when she does a background verification of a potential candidate for a new business:

Her ‘Yes’ List includes:

✅ Creative Posts

✅ Good Comments (by others), References, and Recommendations

✅ Good Communication Skills

✅ Mention of Awards and Accolades They Received

✅ Positive Posts and Comments about Themselves and Their Colleagues, Bosses, and Organizations

✅ Posts on Industry Knowledge or Professional Experience

✅ Qualifications and Pieces of Evidence of Work (that match what is mentioned on Resume)

✅ Shares of Industry Related News and Trends

✅ Well-rounded Arguments

Her ‘No’ List includes:

⛔ Confidential Information or Negative Comments about a Previous Employer or Boss or Colleagues

⛔ Discriminatory Comments

⛔ Inappropriate Comments (that might be political, racist, gender-oriented)

⛔ Inappropriate Photos

⛔ Mention about Drinking Parties

⛔ Mention about Using Drugs

⛔ Poor Communication Skills

⛔ Qualifications (that do not match what is mentioned on Resume)

How to Find Every Social Profile of a Potential Employee in Seconds?

Chrome Extensions You May Use

Chrome web store has some powerful extensions that one can install and use to quickly see all the candidate’s details at one place. I have been using Vibe (now available as FullContact) for quite a while now, and it is an excellent tool to do a free people search on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts in a single click.

As soon as you receive an application of a candidate, it is good to check him out on social media and have some context about him. Choose the email ID of the person – and you can see his name, present designation, and location, work history, and social media profiles. The tool also works on Crunchbase, Angelist, etc.

There are other extensions that you might like to try, such as Connect 6, Discoverly, Rapporto, 360 Social, and UVA. They are doing good work too.

360social, for example, works across popular social networks. Here, you will find real-time and verified information in a neatly structured Sidebar. You can look for employee details or use it to gather more information about a potential client or business partner or recruiter or a new colleague.

These tools help you dive into your contacts’ details, improve the level of your conversations with a potential employee, and save your valuable time.

Let’s assume you have an online assignment help provider firm, and you are looking for an academic or industry expert who is interested in offering management assignment help to students in college.

You’ve identified a few experts in the field. As you hover over their social links, a real-time search on them gets activated. You can click the icon in the toolbar to see all their social data at one place.

Other Web Tools to Use

Besides the plugins, several other web tools can help you screen a candidate easily. For example, Google is a powerful search tool. Just type the name or email address of a person, and include anything you know about the person.

With a person’s resume in your hand, you have a lot of keywords you can use. His school name, current designation, and location are some of the things you can use to check out the online presence of a person.

Another great tool to try is Facebook’s People Search. Here, you can search the FB profiles of people by their name, hometown, the city of residence, college or university, the name of the school, and the name of the previous employer. Once your search results narrow down, you can always browse through the profile pictures and find out your candidate.

LinkedIn Search is a great tool to find out more about professionals. Most people keep their professional network profiles updated – and here, you can find focused information about their career progress and status.

Pipl is yet another tool that HR managers may use. It is a persistent people-search engine. It searches the ‘deep web’ to find information about someone – and works well outside the United States too.

You can search a candidate by his or her name, email address or phone number and find all manner of things about the person. Pipl scours databases and indexes and returns photos, publications, blog entries, donations, social and professional networking profiles and several other sources that normal search engines don’t touch.

Legal Aspects of Employee Screening through Social Media

Privacy advocacy groups and individuals often oppose the screening of social media accounts of potential candidates or existing employees. Till now, 26 states in the US (along with Guam and District of Columbia) have state social media privacy laws in place that restrict employer’s access to personal social media accounts of applicants and employees.

Some of the key restrictions under these state laws are:

  • About 22 states bar employers from requesting or requiring an applicant or an employee to disclose his or her username or password of her social media account. New Mexico laws protect only the applicants from such requests.
  • You cannot ask an applicant or an employee to add a supervisor or a manager to his or her ‘friends’ or ‘contacts’ list or change the privacy settings of the account.
  • You cannot ask the candidates to grant access to their social media accounts or ask for information that allows you to access or observe their personal accounts. Also, as an employer, you cannot ask the candidates to open or access their social media accounts in your presence and allow you to scrutinize it.
  • Laws prohibit you to refuse to hire an applicant because he or she fails to comply with any requests that are ‘illegal’ against the state privacy laws.

What do you need to keep in mind as a hiring manager?

Remember that the state social media laws do not stop employers from reviewing public information about an applicant. It means that you can see any information on social media accounts that is open to general public. They only restrict you from:

  • asking their permission to view the accounts,
  • asking them to change their privacy settings, or
  • requesting their login credentials.

You can see the information about the candidate in the ‘public’ domain but should avoid asking them to befriend you or a third person or company (including those who conduct background investigations of job applicants).

You are also advised to proceed with caution in sending ‘friend requests’ to job applicants or employees or ‘follow’ them, even if you are in a state that does not have such laws. It is imperative that you should review your hiring practices to comply with social media laws in your state, and ensure that all the employees and managers involved in the hiring process are aware of them.


Social media profile of a job applicant is one of the best ways to get to know more about him or her – and find out whether he or she is a good fit for your company or not. Several chrome extensions and people search facilities make the job easier for you as they track the web-wide presence of a person at one place. With the help of these tools, you can see their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Angelist, Crunchbase and several other accounts with a single click.

However, most of the US states have social media privacy laws that allow you to access an applicant’s information available only in the ‘public’ domain. You cannot ask them to reveal their login credentials or private information or ask them to accept your friend requests. So, it is a good idea to review your hiring practices and make sure that you comply with the state laws.

Aditya Singhal is the co-founder of Transtutors, a leading Online Education platform for college students. Having graduated from prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Delhi, Aditya has a personal interest in helping students.

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