We’ve all seen the reports that jobseekers are losing employment opportunities because of damaging content they have posted online -- but it turns out the practice of snooping on prospective employees’ social media profiles is a double-edged sword, as companies which do so risk alienating talented applicants. That’s according to new research by social psychologists at North Carolina State University, which found that employers pay a price for social media screening potential hires.
The paper, titled “Examining Applicant Reactions to the Use of Social Networking Websites in Pre-Employment Screening” and published in the online Journal of Business and Psychology, was based on a survey of 175 people who applied for an online job and were told that the employer was reviewing their Facebook profiles for “professionalism.” Fully two-thirds of the applicants surveyed said they found the employer less attractive because of the screening process, with all of them describing it as an invasion of privacy.
A second survey divided 208 study subjects into two groups; subjects in the first group were asked to imagine a prospective employer looking at their Facebook profiles and then deciding to hire them, while subjects in the second group were asked to imagine a prospective employer looking at their Facebook profiles and then deciding not to hire them. Regardless of whether they got the job or not, 60% of both groups reported having a negative view of the employer.
Even more ominous for employers, 59% of the subjects in the second part of the study said they would consider taking legal action against the employer for invading their privacy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, subjects who were “low in agreeableness” were most likely to report a strong negative reaction to social media screening (“low in agreeableness” obviously ranks as an all-time great corporate euphemism).