The Job Candidate’s Online Reputation is Horrible—Here’s what to do.

Does finding the right candidate in a flood of applications sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack? If so, you’re not alone. According to statistics, 40 percent of global employers surveyed in 2016 said they found a large talent shortage when it came to filling positions. If looking solely at shortages in the U.S., that number bumps up to 46 percent.

bad online reputation

When you finally find that ideal candidate, you breathe a big sigh of relief. However, what happens when you do some research to learn more about this wonderfully qualified person, and you uncover he or she has a horrible online reputation? Now you're in a quandary. You're eager to fill the position with someone who has the right qualifications. Should you take a chance on this otherwise perfect applicant despite what you've learned? Or do you move on to someone else?

Take a close look at the reason for the bad rep 

Take a look to see what ghastly things about this person exist. Are they of a personal nature (i.e. a controversial/political Facebook page, unprofessional social media posts or "troll-like" behavior)? Or does the poor reputation relate to the person's work history? Does the candidate bad-mouth bosses, colleagues or clients on social media? Either way, a bad online reputation can pose a problem if this person becomes a representative of your brand. Additionally, consider any potential legal problems the person may cause for your organization (i.e. hate speech, harassment or sharing of proprietary information).

Bottom line, if the person has caused problems for former employers and/or has developed such a bad reputation it negatively affected their employers' brands, chances are it'll happen while working for you.

Talk to other people

Are the candidate's qualifications attractive enough where it's worth the effort and resources to investigate? If so, thoroughly vet the person's employment history. Don't just ask for references, contact each one. Start with references the candidate has provided or, if these aren't sufficient, ask for more names. Talk to former employers, colleagues, clients – anyone you can reach. During this process, learn as much as you can about the candidate's work history.

  • Is it consistent or is it spotty?
  • Are past jobs riddled with unprofessionalism?
  • What was the cause of leaving each job? (and were any wrongful termination issues pursued by the candidate?)
  • Does the person's online reputation match their personality, work habits or level of professionalism on the job?

Get the perspectives of others to factor into your decision-making. Remember, as you make these calls, avoid asking questions outside the realm of what your state's laws permit former employers to say. Check with your state's labor department if you aren't sure.

Talk to the candidate

Depending on the situation, if the controversies are not work-related and the person appears to be otherwise highly professional, you might be able to resolve problems with the candidate through a conversation. Talk to the person about the bad rep and ask about cleaning up their online act. Be blunt and tell the applicant you want his or her skills but aren't willing to put up with any shenanigans. You need to be sure the employee doesn't hurt your brand. (And, keep in mind, if the person agrees, are there really any guarantees? You might have to go with your gut on this one.)

What does the rest of your application pool look like?

Does the person truly have a unique skill set you need, and do you know you'll have a hard time finding those skills elsewhere? Are there others in your pool of applicants maybe not quite as qualified but who possess a positive reputation? After evaluating the rest of your candidates again, consider whether or not the questionable person's skills are worth the risk. If there are other perfectly competent candidates, one of them is probably the safer bet. If there are slim pickings, you have a hard decision to make. You can take a chance with the person or start the casting call all over again.

Finally, consider if the person has been unemployed for a while. How long has the candidate been on the job market? According to OfficeVibe the best candidates are off the market in 10 days. If the person possesses a unique skill set but has been on the market for a while, especially with stellar qualifications, this could be a big red flag.

Did you know 70 percent of employers pass over candidates after they find something negative about a candidate online? Remember, the most qualified candidate may not always be the best candidate. Many skills can be taught but the actions of a bad employee can't always be easily undone. The bottom line: it's your brand, and your reputation. Weigh the decision carefully.

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