Candidates' character is a major hiring determinant

Bob Weinstein,

Most job candidates don’t consider the power of the social networking Web sites and the impact they have on hiring decisions, says Rich Gee, president of Rich Gee Coaching in Stamford, Conn. “If they did, they’d think twice about the information they place on sites like Twitter and Facebook.” 

Companies are more savvy about getting the lowdown on candidates today than they were in the past. Social networking sites make employers’ and staffing companies’ jobs a lot easier because they provide a bird’s-eye view of candidates’ personalities and character, says Gee.

Underestimate power of social networking sites
Organizations monitor social networking sites for two basic reasons, says Gee. “First, they want to see what candidates are saying about them; and second, they want to gather information about them. For example, they’re looking at Twitter to find out who is saying bad things about them. Employees and job candidates don’t realize that they are or were ambassadors for their organizations. They could wind up paying a hefty price for having a less-than-stellar presence on the Web.”

Aside from picking up scuttlebutt and rumors, companies and staffing firms are also using the sites to verify information. Often they’ll find that information on resumes and job application forms doesn’t jibe with information found on Facebook or LinkedIn.

While companies and staffing companies rank information found on social networking sites differently, Gee finds that Google, Twitter and LinkedIn are the favorites. “First they’ll do a Google search to pick up general information,” says Gee. “Next, they’ll check Twitter, followed by LinkedIn to get an overall picture of candidates.”

Take the hint and think twice about using social networking sites. A LinkedIn page makes sense if you want to present a polished and professional business image. It certainly makes it easier for organizations to check out employees’ references. If your goal is to build a solid professional image, keep your politics and personal viewpoints to yourself.

Here is some solid advice from Gee that’s worth heeding: If you have to think twice about placing information on a social networking Web site, don’t do it. Once information is out there, it can’t be retracted or edited. If you post information on a social networking site, keep it truthful and non-controversial.

How about bringing back objectivity?
Despite the impact of social networking sites, there are many consulting and staffing companies that are still basing hiring decisions on candidates’ resumes, interview performance and extensive reference checks.

Action Coach of Connecticut, a management consulting firm catering to small businesses in Westport, goes even further and advises its business clients to also use psychometric tests as a hiring gauge. Action Coach’s president and founder Jim Malski says the tests consistently deliver precise readings on candidates’ abilities and whether they’ll be a compatible organizational fit.

“The problem organizations have always faced is assessing candidates’ qualifications and differentiating them from their competition,” says Malski. An extensive round of interviews reveals a lot about candidates, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Malski.

The good part about the written tests, which typically take about an hour, is that they measure candidates by several variables, and character is one of them. The tests reveal whether the candidate has the aptitude, job and social skills necessary to perform a particular job. Or, if a candidate has most of the essential skills but has weak interpersonal skills, for example, the tests also indicate that targeted training can bring the candidate up to speed. If you start with the premise that no candidate is perfect, all it takes is a few months of intensive training, and high-potential candidates can be turned into confident and consistent performers, according to Malski. 

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About the Author

Bob Weinstein is a writer, reporter, editor and author. He can be reached via email at