This is the first in a four-part series of articles—"How To Screen"—that explores the challenges that HR faces when screening different levels of employees and helps informs employers what they should be looking for.
Today marks the first entry in our July blog series about what to expect when you're thinking about conducting social media screens. Every level of employee, from entry-level college kids to experienced executives, are candidates for screening, but the calculus for how to screen them and what to expect varies by their age and work experience.
Our first blog concerns screening the millennial, entry-level demographic. It can be incredibly difficult to even imagine how large the social media footprint is for most of these young folks, especially considering that, according to a Pew Research Poll, nearly 90% of people 18-29 are active in some form of social media, and have been since elementary school. There are a few cardinal rules to remember with this group. The first is that you should expect a lot of noise; you might find a kid with twenty thousand tweets and content filled with alcohol and bad language. These people are usually right out of college, and this behavior is more normalized and permissible in their generation. Sensible scrutiny is a virtue in conducting these screens. The second rule, which applies to all levels of candidates, is that content pertaining to bigotry, violence, or crime carries the most weight. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it bears reiterating.
In terms of overall usage for teens and young adults aged 12-24, Instagram is the most used, followed by Twitter and Facebook. It's important to cull all these sources and more, including Snapchat and Tumblr, to find red flags and a holistic picture of the millennials you are screening. Not every piece of "negative" evidence is a determinant factor in who the person is and how they will behave as an employee. You want to be able to figure out what is relevant for the people you are screening, as it pertains to the job they're applying for. If you found that someone tweeted about drugs two times five years ago, does that really say much about them as an employee?
These entry level people are much more likely to have a massive social media presence than any other group, given their age. This might seem like a positive but because of all the noise, it actually makes the search much more difficult. That's why it's important to have a measured analysis of whatever results come up. Figure out where you draw the line, and what matters to you as a business. Consistent values go a long way in navigating the milieu of millennial social media content.
In conducting background checks of young people, we tend to find the most troubling content, but that is usually a quantity problem; they've simply posted more than any other age group, having been active on social media since childhood. Along with that, youthful judgment may yield more problematic posts or pictures. Entry level employees will hopefully be with your company for a long time, so you want to screen and hire intelligently; just remember that also means taking their footprint with a grain of salt.