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Who’s the real person you plan to hire? Can social media help you decide?

By Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR  bio

The applicant knocked it out of the park with both his resume and his answers to your interview questions. The references he provided gave positive reports. Do you make the offer?

Not so fast. Have you fully checked out the real person behind the resume and interview answers? If you search him out on social media, will you find posts that shock you?

What you can learn

If you’ve ever been fooled by a job applicant you’ve taken at face value, you may find the answers you need to avoid a critical mistake on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.

Here’s what you might learn:

  • whether your candidate can present himself professionally;
  • discrepancies with his resume or application;
  • whether he’s viciously bad-mouthed past employers; and even
  • his involvement in illegal activities.

But be careful

Vetting job candidates on social media can open Pandora’s Box, though. You may learn information that federal and state laws don’t allow you to consider, such as the applicant’s race, family status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, and medical conditions. Further, if your applicant has a common name, you may find posts authored by someone other than your candidate, leading you to assess the wrong individual.

Manage these risks by making social media vetting part of the reference and background check process and by focusing on job-related characteristics, such as verification of work history, education and credential, memberships, and other criteria important to the position and ignoring anything related to protected categories. You can find this information in blog posts, press releases, and other media mentions. If a post showing questionable judgment leads you to make a no-hire decision, make a screen shot of the post along with the URL.


The question isn’t – should you use social media, but how. After all, avoiding a bad hire is one hundred times easier than getting rid of a problem employee.

Lynne Curry, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” and “Solutions,” which has great articles on how to remember names & 60 real-life workplace dramas with practical solutions. Both have 4.8-star ratings on

Curry and her group regularly work with law firms and medical practices and hospitals, providing HR on-call, training, expert witness work, facilitation, strategic planning, investigation, mediation, and executive and professional coaching. You can reach her at or or via LinkedIn or Twitter @lynnecurry1.

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