UAE companies step up social media checks of prospective employees

A social media tirade or raucous party video can count against a candidate

Job interview with candidate in modern office
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Recruiters are increasingly trawling the social media posts of job applicants to check for offensive comments and raucous behaviour.

From political tirades to derogatory comments about gender and faith, agencies and their clients are looking for signs they should steer clear of a candidate.

Jobseekers are being warned that a post from years ago could harm their employment chances.

“In Europe they have traditionally been a step ahead of the Middle East when it comes to looking at a job candidate’s history on social media sites,” said Vijay Gandhi, a director in the Dubai office of Korn Ferry, a recruitment and HR consultancy.

“The larger companies in this region are starting to pay more scrutiny to it though and are taking steps to make it a formal part of the recruitment process.

“Many people are still not fully aware of the consequences of what they are posting and also that organisations are introducing these measures as standard practice in the UAE.”

Having a picture of you wearing a bathing suit on your Instagram page is perfectly reasonable. If that's your LinkedIn profile picture though you might want to rethink that

Mr Gandhi gave an example of an applicant who was turned down when recruiters spotted a joke on his Facebook account about women in the workplace.

Other recruiters said videos of scantily clad revellers dancing on tables in nightclubs and bars while under the influence of alcohol led to rejections.

One company decided not to call a jobseeker back for a second interview after it was discovered they had shared a video making light of drunk people fighting in the street in the UK.

Candidates making strongly opinionated comments about the values of one religion over another would lead to almost inevitable rejection, Mr Gandhi said.

“The advice I would give everyone is to be more careful about what you are posting online as it can come back to haunt you,” he said.

In 2017, the Society For Human Resource Management surveyed HR professionals across the US about social media screening.

It found 43 per cent trawled candidates' social media accounts - and that 36 per cent of companies had disqualified an applicant based on content they found.

In addition to LinkedIn - which 93 per cent of recruiters checked - 63 per cent of HR teams looked at a candidate's Facebook and 29 per cent looked an their Twitter feed.

But experts have also suggested having no online presence at all or an inactive social media account can harm job prospects, depending on the industry.

Many professionals make the mistake of believing recruiters will not look beyond their LinkedIn account.

“It raises an ethical question as most of the platforms outside of LinkedIn are in the personal domain,” said Mr Gandhi.

“Previously in the region, it had been limited to LinkedIn but now I'm seeing more recruiters looking at other social media channels.”

Ian Jenkins, head of Middle East and Africa office for recruiters Carter Murray, said many jobseekers were largely unaware.

“The first thing companies do is check LinkedIn but there are fewer concerns there because its target market is professionals,” he said.

Now they tend to look at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles as well, he said.

“My advice to people is to avoid posting about topics they would not want to talk about during dinner with someone they didn’t know.”

Jobseekers should understand the platforms they are using.

“Having a picture of you wearing swimming trunks or a bathing suit on your Instagram page is perfectly reasonable as that’s the forum you would expect to see that,” he said.

“If that’s your LinkedIn profile picture though you might want to rethink that.

“You have to treat your social media like it’s part of a job interview.”

Another common error that people made in the region was not putting the right privacy settings on their social media accounts.

“If you are thinking of changing employers then you might want to go back and clean up your profiles," he said.

“The question to ask yourself is ‘would I be embarrassed to say it in front of a room full of people’?”