This is the third 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.
Each age group and level of work experience requires a specialized level of scrutiny that is beneficial for both employers and their prospective candidates. People use social media differently depending on their age and the nuances of that use can be hugely important in the hiring process. This week we are taking a look at what to expect when you are screening candidates for senior level positions; this is typically for people ages 50 to 65. According to a Pew research poll, 64 percent of these folks use social media. There's certainly a stereotype that because people are above 50, they either don't use social media or aren't well versed in it. Don't make that mistake; screening these people can be just as relevant, as we found these people are just as technologically versed as their middle aged counterparts. There are a couple of points to remember: the first is that red flags on social media for these people are low probability. It's likely that they are old enough to have good judgment and a lifestyle (especially if they are applying for a senior position) lacking an online life full of alcohol, inappropriate posts, or inflammatory thoughts. But that actually makes it trickier and brings us to our second point: this group is extremely high risk. Their flags carry more weight due to their age andm\ a large aquantity of posts alarming, and points to a lack of judgment and a projection of a poor performance as a senior leader in your office.
Let's first look at the probability. You should screen these people like you would your younger, mid-level candidates. If they have photos of alcohol or drugs, or a bunch of bad language or inflammatory political posts, it probably tells you more about their personality than it might for a millennial. Somebody having a glass of wine in a profile picture is probably nothing, but if they have a bunch of instagram posts where they are taking shots at a club, at age 58, you might want to ask a few questions. According to Pew Research, people over 50 use Facebook (61 percent of them in America) over 3 times more than they do any other site or app. Thus, that is where you'll find the majority of information. However, simply because of their age, it's unlikely you will find more red flags than you might for younger people, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it to try.
Social media imprints seem to get smaller as we look across the age spectrum, but that means they carry more weight. We expect a lot of senior level workers, as leaders and mature, thoughtful people who contribute to our companies both in and out of the office. So that would make a red flag like cyberbullying or discrimination more alarming, and a potential liability down the road. You might be able to forgive this behavior case-by-case in younger candidates, but if you see someone in their sixties who is posting some horrible thing on Facebook, that's nothing short of a threat to avoid.
The dynamic of screening senior level people comes down to the low probability/ high risk quandary. It may seem like screening is less necessary, but the weightiness and potential ramifications for your company, on a cultural and legal level, are too much to avoid. Careful, nuanced scrutiny where you're thinking about someone's age and experience is the most efficient way to manage your screening and hiring processes.