Microsoft Study Reveals 70% Use Social Networking Background Checks

Nick Fishman

Our good friend Jon Hyman, employment attorney at Kohrman, Jackson and Krantz just posted results of an alarming study conducted by Microsoft which showed that 70% of U.S. hiring managers reject candidates based on information they’ve posted online.  Yet the study also revealed that 90% of hiring managers are somewhat to very concerned that the information can be inaccurate and unreliable.  For more on this topic check out our recent white paper, Recruiting and Social Networking Sites: What you Do Know Can Hurt You.

Before we get into the study, I want to post Jon’s thoughts on this practice. “There is a justified fear that a lot of the information on the internet is unreliable and unverifiable. I have another problem with HR departments willy-nilly performing internet searches on job applicants – the risk that such a search will disclose protected information such as age, sex, race, or medical information.”

According to a recent survey conducted by Microsoft, 70% of U.S. hiring managers reject candidates based on information located online, while only 7% of consumers think that online information affected their job search.

The following are the most two most interesting findings from the study:

Do you review online reputational information about candidates when evaluating them for a potential job / college admission?

  • All the time – 44%
  • Most of the time – 35%
  • Sometimes – 9%
  • Rarely – 5%
  • Never – 6%

What are the types of online reputational information that influenced decisions to reject a candidate?

  • Concerns about the candidate’s lifestyle – 58%
  • Inappropriate comments and text written by the candidate – 56%
  • Unsuitable photos , videos, and information – 55%
  • Inappropriate comments or text written by friends and relatives – 43%
  • Comments criticizing previous employers, co-workers, or clients – 40%
  • Inappropriate comments or text written by colleagues – 40%
  • Membership in certain groups and networks – 35%
  • Discovered that information the candidate shared was false – 30%
  • Poor communication skills displayed online – 27%
  • Concern about the candidate’s financial background – 16%

And yet, nearly 90% of recruiters and HR professionals surveyed report that they are somewhat to very concerned that the online reputational information they discover may be inaccurate. If you want to review the complete findings, Microsoft has made available a summary as a PDF, and its full research results as a PowerPoint.

What does all of this mean? Here’s what I’ve said previously on this issue:

There is a justified fear that a lot of the information on the internet is unreliable and unverifiable. I have another problem with HR departments willy-nilly performing internet searches on job applicants – the risk that such a search will disclose protected information such as age, sex, race, or medical information.

For more on developing a DIY internet background screening strategy for your company, see Googling job applicants. You can also check out what the Delaware Employment Law Blog has to say on this issue.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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