Whether or not you think you are, humans quickly judge each other on past behavior. Social media is a pretty easy way to get an impression of how someone presents themselves online, and thus what kind of person they will be at work. When it comes to hiring someone, should you consider—or even require—that candidates show you their social media accounts?
Let’s take a look at the facts today: more than 70 percent of employers used social media to screen candidates, and more than 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online. Interestingly, having old or unused social media accounts is much better than not having anything at all. Being completely incognito often appears suspect to a potential employer (unless you work in security) because it suggests that the candidate is hiding something or has problems with trusting others.
It’s worth mentioning that employers are, first and foremost, looking for intellectual curiosity and self-monitoring behavior from candidates. This is where social media can shine. Accounts like LinkedIn or Facebook can help support their professional qualifications, creativity, communication skills, or professional image, helping potential employers to trust the candidate is both authentic and valuable. Social media and online portfolios are one of the fastest ways to get this information. Employers and recruiters aren’t going to (and usually can’t) meet every candidate in person and test them on their skills.
When it comes to technical candidates, some may not have any code to show in their Github, Codepen, or Bitbucket accounts. They may not have any side projects online, or even any pieces of writing that share their opinions on the craft of software engineering. There are a few good reasons: Many engineers work tough jobs in closed-source companies and are always pushing through sprints or staying on-call, or they are actually very early in their careers and haven’t thought about carving out a piece of the internet for themselves. A lack of presence does’t mean that a candidate cannot do the job you want to hire them for, but something about their other attributes (say, their resume or interview answers) should back up their reasons for not having a public portfolio of sample work.
This is why, in my opinion, the very first step of recruiting a software engineer should be to screen them on their actual performance as quickly as possible. Once an engineer passes the screening test, you can compare their test scores against their resume and against their social media presence and portfolio of work.
So should you hire someone without a social media presence? Yes… but only if you can get the necessary information somewhere else and if the job doesn’t require it.