Social mediaSocial media is part of everyday life. And increasingly, more and more companies are using social media to screen possible employees. In fact, according to a study done by the Society for Human Resource Management, more than one half of employers use social media sites to recruit potential candidates, an increase from just more than a third in 2008.


“One of the best ways to find a good candidate is to tap into the networks of the existing employees at a company. If these people use social media to reach out to their networks, they might have a better chance of recruiting a trustworthy, high-quality candidate because they come with the personal connection. And since so many people spend so much time on social media, it just makes sense to reach out to potential candidates via social media,” notes social media and technology expert Sam Graham-Felsen, who was Barack Obama’s chief blogger.


But when using social media to find new candidates, there are certain dos and don’ts employers should follow. Make sure to let applicants know you’re checking their social-media profiles.


“You can certainly learn about their past experience, but I’d argue, more importantly, you can get a sense of their personal judgment. If they’re posting crazy things on their public Twitter account, it’s probably a good sign that the person could be problematic to work with,” says Graham-Felsen.


So should employers check out all of someone’s social media accounts? “Facebook is worth taking a cursory scan. If someone has posted truly inappropriate pictures on his or her public account, it’s a sign that he or she may have poor judgment. Similarly, if someone is ranting wildly on YouTube! Although, if a candidate has created truly interesting and thoughtful content on YouTube, it could be a very good sign of that person’s creative strengths,” says Graham-Felsen. But work-related sites are the best bet. “LinkedIn is probably the best place to look–certainly the best place to learn about a candidate’s professional qualifications,” Graham-Felsen points out.


When using social media to pre-interview a candidate, Graham-Felsen says it is a good idea to ask them to write an essay to learn more about the person. “When I always ask for a writing sample or for an essay response to an open-ended question. It says a lot if a candidate can write well and articulate thoughts effectively,” he explains. “I also want to see if a candidate has a good deal of self-awareness and confidence, but also humility.”


And while reviewing candidates via social media can be a great idea, rejecting via social media is not. “I think a rejection is something that should happen privately, certainly not over a public network like Twitter or Facebook. I think email is a better venue for rejection — or better yet, the old fashioned telephone call,” says Graham-Felsen.