This is the second 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.
This week's blog is the second entry in our series about what to expect when you're thinking about conducting social media screens. We have found that it is important to delineate the differences between how to screen people based on their age, levels of work experience, and social media use; some of those differences are not immediately evident and available, but it's important to dig deep so you get the most valuable and useful information about your candidates.
Today's article concerns screening mid-level employees; this mainly covers people ages 30-49, although there is some fluctuation in that range. When it comes to social, this is a relatively difficult group to understand, and from a hiring standpoint, we expect a great deal more of responsibility and maturity from older people, so the expectations in screening their public online profiles and content may be different.
Why are they so difficult to understand? Well, mid-level employees are typically at the beginning of middle age, which means they're young enough to use and understand almost all social media, but old enough to feasibly understand its consequences in a hiring process. When someone who is 22 has a bunch of pictures of them drinking, we may not pay that too much mind as they are just out of college; but when someone who is 41 has a dozen photos of themselves getting drunk or around drug paraphernalia, that's more of a red flag. Also, most of your data on midlevel people will be on facebook; according to Pew Research polls, 79% of them use Facebook, and only about a third are on Instagram, while a fifth of them are on Twitter. You can observe patterns of quantity or frequency of suggestive or inappropriate facebook photos, for example, to see if a candidate might be a binge drinker. Furthermore, if they have a few inflammatory tweets, it might be less forgivable than someone who is only a few years removed from being a teenager, and may in fact be more illustrative of who they are as a developed person.
The other reason this is a difficult age group to analyze is that we have different expectations of them than other people, some that are perhaps difficult to qualify. We expect our midlevel employees to assume a greater degree of leadership and responsibility in the office, both vocally and by example. If you see that someone's Facebook profile is full of curse words or sexual innuendo, you might be worried that they would set a poor example in the office, or that their presence might be toxic for your culture. Again, we see that our analysis might be less forgiving for midlevel employees.
In essence, midlevel employees who are in their thirties and forties will probably have a much smaller social media footprint than their younger entry-level millennial counterparts. Yet, because we imbue these candidates with higher expectations for leadership and maturity, we should analyze their social media background checks with a greater degree of scrutiny and caution.