Most people know that posting a booze-soaked selfie on a public social media feed is ill-advised, especially if they are planning to ever look for a job. But did you know that cracking a joke about calling in sick can also hurt your chances of landing a sought-after position?
That’s because AI is at work in many employers’ recruiting efforts. “People don’t realize that screening algorithms don’t have a sense of humor,” says Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself, a reputation management software firm. “What this means is that jokes about skipping work to watch Netflix could get flagged as potentially harmful.”
The number of employers using social media to screen candidates is at an all-time high, according to a CareerBuilder survey of 2,380 hiring and human resource managers. Seventy percent of employers use social media to screen candidates, up from 11% in 2006. More than half (54%) said they wouldn’t hire someone based on what they saw on the candidate’s social feeds.
Some companies are even outsourcing the scouring of candidates’ online presence, like Los Angeles-based Fama Technologies, which offers an AI software tool that helps them screen out undesirable applicants. In a report for CNBC, Fama CEO and cofounder Ben Mones were less interested in uncovering recreational alcohol use and the like, rather they want to make sure they’re not hiring bullies or bigots. “Employers are looking for folks who don’t think that misogynistic comment is wrong,” he said.
“Candid posts that use vulgar or insensitive language are clear red flags. In addition, slang usage and unprofessional “funny” posts have been frequently flagged as troubling for hiring managers,” Ambron concurs.
Using AI To Make You Your Best (Online) Self
While algorithms can be humorless when it comes to reading status updates, BrandYourself’s AI claims it uses the same no-nonsense approach to ferreting out problematic content.
Ambron contends that its software goes deep (in some cases up to 10 years) into search engine results, social media posts, images and video content that you posted or were tagged in, and then gives the candidate recommendations of negative content to remove. For an annual fee of $99, says Ambron, the software will continue to monitor your social platforms and online presence, and alert you if anything new shows up that needs your attention.
Among the problematic content, CareerBuilder identified the most common deal breakers, including provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or information, drinking or using drugs, posting discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, and bad-mouthing their previous company or fellow employee.
Does it ever really go away? Ambron says that depends on what kind of offending information it is. “If it’s simply a poorly judged social media post, you can hopefully delete it right away, which minimizes the chances of it being flagged during an employment screening,” he explains. Employers don’t have access to deleted tweets or FB status updates unless they had a legal subpoena or if someone took a screenshot.
“If it’s something in Google that hasn’t been deleted, they can still find it,” he says, “but it’s much less likely and will have a smaller impact on the impression you make.” Still he cautions that a negative Google result that someone else wrote about you to harm you such as a review, news article, or a slanderous post or image, could take months to bury with more accurate, positive information.
“The idea is that if there’s negative information out there about you (like an ex bashing you online), you want to surround it with more accurate information that better represents your personality, professionalism, and overall brand,” he explains. This strategy takes both time and maintenance, Ambron admits.
There is a bright side. Along with identifying offending information, the AI can also pinpoint the positives that you can boost to look better. This includes recommending which social media profiles you should have to achieve your professional goals strategies for optimizing them to show up high in Google search results, says Ambron.
For instance, a Google search for a former high-level Disney, AOL, and AG Interactive executive who is a pioneer in the VR world used to yield multiple results for a singer-songwriter by the same name before any of his own work showed up. Populating a website, LinkedIn profile, Twitter, and Medium accounts with regular, quality content about his expertise changed the game. Now a search has him as the first result on the first page.
The same CareerBuilder survey found that 44% of employers found social content that supported making a hire. Among the primary reasons were that their experience and expertise shone through social and that they presented great communication skills and creativity. An older survey from CareerBuilder emphasizes the importance of such soft skills. Among 2,600 hiring managers and HR professionals, 71% said they valued emotional intelligence over IQ overall.
In a tight job market, jobseekers who demonstrate a sterling online presence by communicating professionally, showcasing their expertise, and interacting with a variety of people on social media will be more in demand than ever.