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#trending: LinkedIn post on recruiters monitoring jobseekers’ social media accounts sparks debate on such practice

SINGAPORE — Jobseekers, beware. Your potential employer could be following you on Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok. 

#trending: LinkedIn post on recruiters monitoring jobseekers’ social media accounts sparks debate on such practice
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  • A LinkedIn News Asia post on Tuesday said that more recruiters are now screening job candidates’ social media profiles as part of their hiring process
  • The post generated debate online on whether this is acceptable
  • Research has shown that such a practice can be discriminatory and not indicative of actual work performance

SINGAPORE — Jobseekers, beware. Your potential employer could be following you on Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok. 

More recruiters are now screening job candidates’ social media profiles as part of their hiring process, according to LinkedIn News Asia, the news section of professional jobs networking site LinkedIn.

The LinkedIn post, published on Tuesday (Sept 27), did not specify how many more companies are doing so, but it did generate a debate on the issue, drawing over 100 comments in two days.

Opinions were split on whether such a practice by hiring manager is acceptable or not.

So what exactly are recruiters looking out for in seeking out candidates' social media activities?

Employers don’t care if you ate a granola bowl for breakfast or went to the Maldives in the summer — although the use of profanities might be a cause for concern. Instead, companies are using social media as a screening tool for job candidates.

Some potential red flags? Illegal activities, graphic or obscene materials and offensive comments, according to Business News Daily. 

According to a 2020 survey by The Harris Poll, 70 per cent of United States employers believe that companies should screen candidates’ social media profiles during the hiring process. 

More than half (55 per cent) of employers who have done social media screening rejected candidates because of what they found. A majority of employers (67 per cent) polled said that they use social media sites to research on potential job candidates.

The Harris Poll, commissioned by international staffing company Express Employment Professionals, surveyed 1,005 US hiring managers in 2020.


A social media screening is usually done during the hiring process. Employers will look at applicants’ social media profiles and activities on platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and WhatsApp, according to Business News Daily in a report last month.

Some social media activities recruiters look out for are “illegal activities, offensive comments, violent or aggressive behavior, sexually explicit material, or confidential information”, Business News Daily reported.

However, such a process may give rise to discrimination — and isn’t indicative of actual work performance, a 2020 study published on the Journal of Applied Psychology found.

In the first of the three studies based in the US, researchers found that the Facebook pages of 266 US job seekers revealed information that employers are legally prohibited from considering. 

This included information such as gender, race, and ethnicity (which was available in 100 per cent of the profiles) and other personal information such as pregnancy status (3 per cent), sexual orientation (59 per cent), political views (21 per cent), and religious affiliation (41 per cent).

“You can see why many recruiters love social media — it allows them to discover all the information they aren’t allowed to ask about during an interview,” Professor Chad Van Iddekinge, one of the study’s researchers, told Harvard Business Review in September 2021.

In the second study, researchers found that recruiters were susceptible to being influenced by off-limit factors, such as relationship status, age, gender, and religion.

Married and engaged candidates, for example, were scored more favourably on average compared to their single counterparts.

In the final study, researchers found that hiring managers were not able to accurately predict job performance or turnover intentions based on a job candidate’s online activity, with the exception of Linkedin. This indicated that screening a candidate based on their social media profiles may not necessarily help to find the best candidate for the job. 


Views were mixed on LinkedIn News Asia’s post on the practice published on Tuesday.

Opinions were largely divided into two camps.

Those who believe that social media screening is acceptable note that whatever one puts up on public social media accounts is open to all and would reflect the candidate’s personality at work.

“Generally, in the selection, some of the criteria that are difficult to gauge in an interview can be partially inferred from their social media content and usage,” said LinkedIn user Manimaran Tannimalai.

“For example, ethics, financial standing, the search for meaning in life…”

But those who argue against such a practice feel that screening social media is an intrusion of privacy and hiring managers may be inevitably biased when judging social media profiles.

“In essence, checking a job candidate's social media accounts is like prying into their personal life,” said LinkedIn user Kiran Bhatia Tandon.

Another LinkedIn user William Martin added: “Yes, checking social media 'may' give an insight into a candidate, but given that it's done by another human (with their own inherent biases, cultural, educational and social 'norms'), it should not be taken as the be-all-and-end-all of any screening process." 


Researchers of the study recommend jobseekers to review their social media profiles and tighten privacy settings. 

Want to have a space to express yourself candidly?

Business News Daily recommends creating a separate account for professional purposes and keeping your personal profiles private.

Some other guidelines recommended by The Harris Poll’s survey include:

  1. Avoid sharing any offensive material. Rule of thumb: If the content is not something you would share at work, it’s probably inappropriate on social media
  2. Think before you post. Be sure of your purpose and intention behind a post
  3. Post in moderation. Personal situations are better kept within a trusted circle of family and friends
  4. A final golden rule: Never complain about work situations or colleagues on social media  

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