Three out of every four American adults are on social networking sites, with many of them using it as a way to search for jobs. But that works the other way as well, with 91% of companies surveyed by Reppler recently saying they use social networking sites to screen prospective employees. 

Here are some of the other highlights of the survey:

  • 76% of companies use Facebook to screen candidates, 53% use Twitter and 48% use LinkedIn
  • 69% of companies say they have rejected a job candidate because of something they saw on social media
  • 26% of companies surveyed say they haven't rejected a candidate via social media screening
  • 5% say they do not use social media sites to screen prospective candidates at all

Of the companies that have rejected candidates using social media screening, these are the reasons why:

  • 13% - candidates lied about their qualifications
  • 11% - posted inappropriate photos
  • 11% - posted inappropriate comments
  • 11% - demonstrated poor communications skills
  • 10% - made discriminatory comments
  • 10% - posted content indicating drug use
  • 9% - posted content about drinking alcohol
  • 7% - posted confidential information about an employer
  • 7% - have never rejected a candidate because of something they discovered on social media

Have any companies actually chosen to hire a candidate because of something they saw on social media?  

  • 68% - yes
  • 27% - no
  • 5% - do not use social media to screen

Why did these companies choose to hire a candidate because of something they saw on social media?

  • 39% - gave a positive impression of their personality and fit
  • 36% - profile supported their professional qualifications 
  • 36% - profile showed candidate was creative
  • 34% - had good references posted by others
  • 33% - showed solid communication skills
  • 33% - profile showed candidate was well-rounded
  • 24% - candidate received awards and accolades
  • 18% - never hired a candidate because of social media content

During which phase of the hiring process do you look at social media sites to screen prospective employees?

  • 47% - right after receiving an application
  • 27% - after an initial conversation
  • 15% - after an in-depth conversation
  • 7% - I don't use those sites to screen
  • 4% - right before an offer is extended

One staffing pro I contacted in conjunction with this story cautioned against using this method too aggressively to screen candidates. 

"Of course there is always the chance you are going to come across something that immediately disqualifies someone. But sometimes seen in the light of day, online profiles can be kind of misleading, and you end up getting too picky, and weeding out people who might be perfectly suitable to fill some of your openings."

Another expressed a similar sentiment, saying "For me the face-to-face interview is still the best way to determine if a potential candidate is a fit. I still want to give as many people as possible a chance in the interview stage. Otherwise you miss out on too many qualified prospects I can't afford to lose these days."

You can also run the risk of misinterpreting or misusing prohibited information. 

Sara Jodka is an attorney with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP in Columbus, Ohio. She has a do's and don'ts social media screening primer in Law Practice Today 

"Misinterpreting information is just one risk employers face when vetting applicants through social media," Jodka cautions. "Another is the potential to uncover information the employer is prohibited by law from considering in the hiring process, like information about the applicant’s race, gender, religion, or membership in some other protected class. If an employer obtains this type of information online, the cat is out of the bag. There is no way for the employer to un-see it and, more importantly, it is hard for the employer to demonstrate it did not use the prohibited information in its hiring decision."