When you meet someone for the first time, when you’re set up on a blind date, or when you’re looking to hire a babysitter, do you ever check that person out on social media? “Let me just type this name into Facebook (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and see what pops up,” right? If you check a person’s social media accounts prior to dating or befriending them, or having them watch your kids, why wouldn’t you do the same before hiring them to work for your company?
Recently, Harvard University rescinded their acceptance of several students after they discovered inappropriate, racist jokes they posted on social media. Similarly, teachers and police officers around the country have lost their jobs for inappropriate things they wrote or shared on their personal social media accounts. In fact, there are so many cases of inappropriate social media use leading to an employee losing his or her job, that it usually doesn’t even make the news anymore! Companies and local governments are great at policing and examining social media use once someone has been hired, but what about before that person is hired? Had Harvard checked the social media pages of some of the students whose acceptance they rescinded, would they have found evidence of racist, bigoted behavior? If school districts or police forces examined the social media accounts of people they were considering hiring, would it save them from having to fire someone after an embarrassing statement was made to the public?
Employers need to check social media accounts before hiring someone because they can provide a much more realistic version of a person than is conveyed in a button-down, three-minute interview. A school with which I have close ties recently had to fire a teacher because the students found something on his social media page that was highly inappropriate. The inappropriate content had been posted several times in the two years prior to his hiring. Had they bothered to look him up on social media (or even Google), they would not have hired him and could have avoided the many issues caused by student and parent reactions to his posts.
Checking social media after you hire someone might be too late – you don’t want your company associated with negative images, memes, or press. Remember: the internet is forever. Guard your company’s reputation by being mindful of how your future, and current, employees represent themselves and your business!