Social media is taking more and more prominence in hiring decisions. Why? It seems to be that the twilight of the reference check is here.

Too many companies are worried about potential liabilities should they provide more than a start and end-date and even salary. Then of course, there is the fact that many graduates also carry several recommendation letters in tow. How is an HR manager or hiring manager supposed to know if a job candidate is a good fit? By checking the prospective candidate’s social media activities, of course.

In a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll for, 51% of employers, who check social media outlets of potential candidates, have found information that cause them not to hire the prospective employee. What should a job seeker do?For starters, the basic rule of thumb is to keep it clean. There really is no good reason to show the latest drunken exploits. Nor is it a good idea to post a picture of an arrest warrant, as one candidate discovered. Another good idea is to refrain from making racist or offensive remarks and posting any materials that could be considered as such. In a nutshell, if you wouldn’t do it in front of your family or say it to them, don’t post it. Once it is out there, it is very hard to get rid of it.

As the saying goes, it is not all doom and gloom. A job seeker can make social media work for him. According to the referenced survey, hiring managers looked at the social media history of a candidate for certain aspects such as:

  • Professional Image
  • Good or Excellent Communication Skills
  • Background Info to Support Stated Qualifications
  • Online Reference Reviews of Candidate
  • Ability to Fit with Corporate Culture

Naturally, not all social media outlets will correspond to the entire list. No one expects to find qualification correlation on Twitter for example. However, it would be good for checking communication skills. Does the person clearly state the point or is it just hashtags and gibberish? The point is that the image a person projects in social media is the one that a hiring manager will see.

No matter how good a person is at his job, not many hiring managers want an employee who drinks too much, is racist, or is unable to communicate himself well, even if that only applies to the off hours. Importantly, no matter how private a person intends for the information to be, nothing will guarantee the information will stay that way.

To really make social media work and give the best chance for scoring a job is to make sure to project a positive image.