Some Employers View Applicants' Lack of Online Presence as a Negative

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By Genevieve Douglas

May 14 — Slightly more than one-third (35 percent) of employers are less likely to interview job candidates if they are unable to find information about them online, according to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey, released May 14.

“It speaks to the changing nature of recruitment due to the evolution of social media and the public space that the Internet has become,” Ryan Hunt, senior career advisor at the human capital solutions company, told Bloomberg BNA May 13. “Recruiters are trying to get the most full picture they can about these candidates to whittle down the pile of resumes.”

The survey found that more than half (52 percent) of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, “up significantly,” CareerBuilder said, from 43 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2013.

Most recruiters are not intentionally looking for negative online information about job applicants, Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said in a press release announcing the survey results. Six in 10, in fact, are “looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job,” she said.

Specifically, 56 percent of recruiters stated they want to see if the candidate has a professional online persona and 37 percent want to see what other people are posting about the candidate. Still, 21 percent admitted they’re looking for reasons not to hire the candidate.

The survey was conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder by Harris Poll between Feb. 11 and March 6, and included responses from more than 2,000 full-time U.S. hiring and human resources managers.

Online Red Flags

Depending on what hiring managers find, job candidates’ online information can help or hurt their odds of getting a job, CareerBuilder said.

Nearly 50 percent of hiring managers who screen candidates via social networks said they have found information that caused them not to hire a candidate, little changed from 51 percent in 2014. The top pieces of content that turned off employers include:

• provocative or inappropriate photographs (46 percent);

• information about a candidate drinking or using drugs (40 percent);

• the candidate bad-mouthing a previous company or a fellow employee (34 percent); and

• discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. (29 percent).


About one-third (32 percent) of respondents, however, found information that caused them to hire a candidate, such as when the candidate’s background information supported job qualifications; the candidate’s personality came across as good fit with company culture; the candidate’s site conveyed a professional image; and the candidate had great communication skills.

Hunt encouraged all hiring managers when researching applicants online to be “very aware” of avoiding equal employment opportunity issues, as different demographics of candidates might have more of an online presence than others.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at

Additional information on the survey is available at