Hiring managers: would an applicant's lack of social media presence be a minus in your book?

I manage an inside sales call center. We’re preparing to start hiring account managers–the entry level positions. Some of my team leaders are also fairly new to their jobs, so I’ve been talking to them about the process. One of them–a fairly young woman–has mentioned that she always checks out applicants’ Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, LinkedIn accounts, and so forth before asking them back for a second interview. If she can’t find a social media presence with a Google search, she considers it a strike against them, as she wonders what they’re hiding and why. No visibility on social media = no callback for a second interview.

I advised her against the latter attitude, as it strikes me as … questionable. But then I am old. So I ask Dopers who are in hiring positions at their companies: if a job applicant has no social media presence, would you be dismayed? If so, why?

Sounds rather ridiculous to me. I have a Facebook account, and a Linkedin account but many of my 50ish year old friends no not. They have nothing to hide, nor do they have anything they feel like sharing. Honestly, I would delete my Facebook profile at this point, but I have connections to cousins, etc. who live on another continent, so I keep it around.

If you were hiring them to run a social media campaign, then yes, a lack of personal social media would be a strike against them. But that’s because it seems doubtful they would have needed experience in the area than something to do with social media itself.

My company is currently in the process of hiring an intern. I admit I did go and look for the candidates social media sites. If they didn’t have one, or it was vanilla, neutral. If I had found one where their profile picture was them smoking pot while running from the cops, it would have been a negative. (I can’t think of an instance where it would be a positive, unless maybe they were heavily involved in something related but then didn’t put it on their resume, which would just be bizarre).

Plenty of people don’t use social media for personal reasons. I can’t blame them. While we all have different selection criteria, marking a candidate down for having no social media presence (or locked up so the public can’t search it) strikes me as something that is more noise than signal. Again, unless the job is directly related to social media.

EDIT: I wonder if this is one of those projection situations, where the interviewer’s concern about hiding something tells you more about the interviewer than the interviewee.

This reminds me that I should have written “no apparent social media presence,” as the young lady in question seemed to think that, if she can’t google someone and get their FB page or whatnot, that person most likely has such an account but has its privacy settings set to hide it from non-friends, which to hear implies that they’re ashamed of something.

Or that they have a reasonable sense of boundarys and will exhibit some of the same common sense in dealing with your customers.

Unless there is a need to be proficient with social media in their job I wouldn’t consider a lack of it to be a negative. I would question the judgement of someone with a public profile that shows perfectly legal activities that you would not normally talk about with your coworkers. ie, excessive drunkeness, relationship drama, friend drama. All of these in public tend to suggest to me that the person is going to tend to be a lot of effort to manage. They might be able to do the job but they’ll make mine harder too. That’s a strike against them. Not necessarily a terminal one but given an equally qualified contender it would be a consideration.

I can’t help but wonder if she feels this way due to her own personal experience in these matters.

Do you mean you suspect she has gotten burned because she was insufficiently discreet on social media, or that she’s discovered too late that someone else was?

I have an extremely common name. I just Googled me and I can see that I’m a politician, a professional athlete in a few sports, a painter, a chef, and many other things. I return many many pages of hits so I have no idea how many pages in she’d have to go to actually find my facebook page. Does that mean I don’t get a callback?

Her view is ill informed and seems like something she read once as a good idea and decided to implement it without really giving it any thought.

Her attitude reminds me of a coworker I had a few years ago who was in charge of hiring people. He read some pseudoscience book about interviewing and kept it out as his Bible. I was involved in the interviews as well and would occasionally say he couldn’t rely on what that book said but he was adamant that it was right. We would take serious candidates to lunch so they could meet the whole staff and he would watch to see if they salted their food before tasting it. Supposedly that would show that they made rash decisions. He also found a series of riddles that he would ask candidates because he could get an idea of how they thought - though how that translated to our work I have no idea. He was sure he was a great interviewer but he got so lost in the crazy fluff that he didn’t spend nearly enough time on actually interviewing them about their qualifications for the job we needed them to do. I’m sure we lost a few great candidates because of his obsession with the small stuff.

I guess I would ask her how she concludes that an active social media presence indicates a fit for the essential job functions. I would use those exact words.

I suspect she is just using the indicator of an active social media presence as a tribal filter - to determine if the applicant is similar to her enough that they would be a good fit socially in her vision of the working environment. Sorta like if a manager hires based on if someone likes the same sports team.

I tired Googling myself once. It took four pages to even find something of mine. It took almost 2 1/2 pages to find someone who was not a Delta blues star. Guess I would be screwed applying for a job with your Team Lead. Of course, nothing other than my LinkedIn account has anything even remotely applicable to my job experience, so her finding my Facbook or Twitter would not really help her much.

Good advice to her not to put too much stock in social media sites.

When I applied for positions, in the cover letter I pointed people to my website, where they could download my CV and GIS portfolio and see me cheesing in front of the camera in my business attire.

If I was applying for positions now, I would create a science-related blog where I would wax poetically about science-related happenings. I’d create some fake followers and some fake comments. Maybe I’d get a couple of real ones if I’m lucky.

I know that sounds weasely, but it is what it is. In this high stakes game of employment, you gotta shake your ass and do the dance. I refuse to do Facebook and Twitter, but I can do something that makes me look like I’ve got a decent internet presence. In my way of thinking, it’s better to have some control over how people size you up rather than allowing yourself to be completely passive.

But to answer the OP, no, I wouldn’t hold it against an applicant.

I never check, and don’t care. But I’m not on FB or Twitter, just Linked In, and that not very much. (I accept invitations, never make them.)

Some one not on social media won’t feel the urge to check it at work and won’t give away stuff. And maybe has better things to do. But mostly it is none of my business. I hire on technical ability. But I’m an engineer, so we specialize in anti-social media.

I respect people more for not being blathering idiots on social media sites.

Since when did keeping ones private life private become a negative? Sheesh.

p.s. I do most of the hiring around here.

Point out to her that all a “presence in social media” likely means is that the person in question has manufactured a fake Facebook page and so forth specifically for the consumption of people like her. That after all is the usual advice I hear for dealing with companies with hiring practices like hers; even for people who do have a real Facebook account it’s better to make a second for-companies-only version. All she’s doing is refusing to hire the honest people.

I’ve already given her my advice. I’m not going to order her not to eliminate candidates because of a lack of FB & Twitter, partly because it would be an unenforceable instruction but mostly because I think it’s best to have a light hand here. Within the obvious limits, it’s best that she fill her team as she sees fit. As long as she runs it well and productively, I’m not going to try to be a puppeteer.

My first name is common but my last name is not. Whenever I’ve Googled myself, most of the hits have either been for a teenager in Utah or a British pediatrician.

I know a guy who’s got heavy social media presence but under his nom de plume. He’s an active blogger and, ever since he retired, gives presentations and conferences all over the world - but the blog and his facebook, twitter, etc are all under a different name than his passport.

Then again, I don’t think he’ll be trying to join your company any time soon, the commute would be a killer.

What if you googled the prospective candidate and learned that they had served in the military; just had a birthday and turned 45; that they were originally from Pakistan; they belonged to a support group for the disability they have; or they were on the board of their local Christian denomination church; and after the interview you decided not to hire them. Could you prove that you didn’t use that knowledge to discriminate against the candidate?

For the same reason that interviewers are not supposed to ask certain questions during interviews that could highlight potentially discriminating topics, we have a policy of not searching social media sites about candidates.