Risks and Rewards of Social Media Recruiting: a 2021 Study

Weronika Cekala
by Weronika Cekala   Career Advice Contributor 
Published On : March 03, 2021 


LinkedIn? Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? 

In a world where daily life is defined by masks and smartphone screens, social media has become an essential means of communication and apparently, an excellent recruitment tool.

These platforms can tell recruiters a lot about a candidate’s personality, and the temptation to check them can be hard to resist for information-hungry employers.

But the big question is, do they always work to our advantage?

We set out to discover the role of social media in the recruitment process by getting an insight into the minds of HR professionals and the things they pay attention to.

We surveyed more than 100 recruiters and hiring managers to discover social media’s role in recruiting and key do’s and don’ts for candidates.

Read on to discover what your social media presence says to potential employees about you.

To Be or Not to Be Online?

Social media isn’t just for fun anymore. Whether it’s good or bad, your online presence makes an impression, and social media can feel like a necessity these days.

There are more and more networking sites, and it can be hard to keep up. But do we really have to stay on top of all of them? And is there actually a need to be online at all?

Before you get the answer, a brief explanation of what we’re referring to. The definition of what social media is has changed throughout time and continues to evolve.

There are varying schools of thought on what social media is, but for our purposes we’ve defined it as any digital tool that allows users to create and share content with the public.

But despite the growing popularity of social media in recruitment and HR in general, many people still don’t feel the need to have profiles at all.

And looking at our survey results, there is nothing wrong with that because 90% of recruiters and hiring managers would still invite a candidate for an interview even if they can’t find them online.


Infographic shows survey results on how recruiters scope out and search for candidates on social media.

However if you do have a social media presence you can be sure recruiters will look at it.

A whopping 80% of our respondents screen candidates through social media prior to hiring.

That can work both to the benefit and the detriment of the candidate. Skillfully managed and professional social media can be key to distinguishing yourself from other candidates. On the other hand, inappropriate content can easily scare off a potential employer.

However, it may not be that easy to clean up every nook and cranny of private social media. Think of the sheer volume of content that gets posted across different platforms.

We can point you in the right direction though. According to our respondents, areas that they check most frequently and therefore require special attention are:


  • Main posts—66%
  • About me section—63%
  • Photos—60%
  • Candidate’s comments under posts—43%
  • Followed profiles—25%

So before moving on to building a positive online presence, a candidate needs to make sure there are no nasty surprises on their profile.


  • 66% of respondents cited looking for red flags as a reason for checking a candidate’s social media.
  • 62% of respondents want to get an idea about the candidate and their life, so make sure you do keep some personalized facts about yourself on your profiles.
  • 57% of respondents check if someone would be a good fit for the company culture. So if you want to land that job, do your research, check out the company culture and try to curate your social media to show you’d be a good fit with it.

As we’ve mentioned, while not having a social media presence won’t necessarily deter recruiters, 77% of our respondents use these platforms to search for suitable candidates.

So lacking an online presence can also mean limiting your access to many, often unique, job offers. As one respondent answered when asked on how job seekers can make the most of their social media presence and improve their employability chances:


Job seekers can improve their employability by showing their strengths on social media. They should be posting on their social media frequently and actively using the ‘story’ feature to show what their day-to-day life consists of. Job seekers should also follow and interact with potential employers’ social media accounts!


In fact, the majority of advice received from recruiters and hiring managers directly concerned managing your social networks skilfully and avoiding thoughtless mistakes.

Some also recommended reviewing one’s social media privacy settings as a good way of ensuring recruiters don’t see absolutely everything. And we agree. Apart from being good for recruiting purposes it’s also good practice for your personal cybersecurity.

A study published in the Management Communication Quarterly further confirms that employment issues are a main driving factor in changing privacy settings and deleting posts. Those results go hand in hand with another study published by Elsevier a few years earlier.

Which Social Media Sites Really Matter?

Social Media in the workplace has been a subject of heated discussion for some time. What’s undeniable however is that social networking sites are gaining popularity when it comes to searching for both jobs and job candidates.

And who’s the social media leader when it comes to your professional online presence?

According to our survey, Facebook was a clear winner, with 74% of recruiters and hiring managers checking potential candidates’ online presence on that platform.



Infographic shows survey results on the top social platforms that recruiters use to scope candidates.

In a sense, this was a surprising result. Despite still being the leading social media website in the United States based on the share of visits, Facebook is not the obvious choice for managing your professional online presence.

From the perspective of a job candidate, LinkedIn, which is checked by 56% of recruiters and hiring managers, would seem to be a better choice to tell your personal brand story.

But our findings go hand in hand with SocialMeep’s study on this issue, which states that taking into account the number of job offers received, Facebook remains the most popular professional social network.

According to them, by a wide margin, more job seekers find a job on Facebook.

18.4 million applicants reported they’d found their jobs on Facebook compared to 10.2 million claiming they found the job on LinkedIn.

That said, HireHive’s guide to Social Recruiting, states that active presence on both LinkedIn and Facebook is essential for social recruiting.

Despite Facebook being widely used by a broad demographic, LinkedIn provides users with the most opportunities for developing their personal brand.


As LinkedIn remains the most popular professional social network, we decided to further analyze its importance in career building. Unsurprisingly, 68% of hiring managers and recruiters said that job seekers need a LinkedIn profile in 2021.


Infographic shows survey results on whether a LinkedIn presence is a necessity for candidates in 2021.

75% of our respondents said staying active on LinkedIn will help you get noticed by recruiters. And staying active means, for example, engaging with other people’s posts and sharing content.

And as 65% of recruiter and hiring managers don’t mind being contacted by potential candidates, you can use LinkedIn’s network to reach out to them.

Then if you want top tips that’ll  take your LinkedIn profile to the next level—pay close attention to keywords.

59% of our respondents regarded the use of key words as important or essential for visibility. With only 9% considering  that they add no value.

But don’t just take our word for it. LinkedIn keywords are a common topic for recruitment advice, and you can find plenty written about the subject, even on the platform itself. As LinkedIn themselves say, keywords are a crucial part of attracting visitors to your profile.

Again, this makes sense. Optimizing your profile for the site’s algorithms and smart use of your profile header is a great way to increase your visibility. But what can make you stand out more is getting a LinkedIn Premium subscription.

Fully 84% of respondents thought a premium account is important or crucial to optimize your LinkedIn presence.

With those sorts of numbers it seems a premium subscription is a great way to differentiate yourself on the LinkedIn network.

So now that you know which social media sites really matter for hiring managers and recruiters let’s look at the etiquette of online presence.


Dos and Don’ts of Online Presence

Most job applicants are aware that recruiters review potential employees’ social media profiles before asking them for an interview. But, some candidates forget that professional presence is not limited to LinkedIn. A good Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter presence is just as important.

Like it or not, recruiters and hiring managers review your social media profiles. Having that in mind, rather than burying your head in the sand, why not take some steps to make sure you’re putting your best professional foot forward?

But before we look at what you should do. Let’s focus on the content that might drive the recruiter away when they’re evaluating your social media presence.

Unfortunately, there is plenty to choose from.

Infographic shows recruiter survey results on the top social media red flags for job candidates.

  • A significant majority of 66% of recruiters and hiring managers we surveyed agreed that discriminatory comments related to race, gender, or religion  are the worst red flags. 
  • You should also make it a habit to think before you post. 57% of respondents considered provocative or inappropriate content to be a red flag.
  • The same percentage held this view about posting information about  drinking or using drugs. Hiring managers aren’t looking for a party animal. They want to find sober, capable professionals with the skill set to make a positive contribution to the employer.
  • And 51% of respondents said that bad-mouthing or sharing confidential information about previous employers or fellow employees is problematic. So bear that in mind next time you’re tempted to share your work-related frustrations.

Interestingly, extreme political views and bad language, although off-putting for some recruiters, were generally not perceived negatively. In both cases, less than 40% of recruiters perceived the behavior negatively, which came as a surprise.

Even so, it’s best to save controversial opinions for conversations with friends and make sure your language is always on point. You want to make the best impression, and putting off even a third of recruiters will seriously damage your chances of success.


Make the most of your Social Media.

Let’s face it, almost all of us are on social media today. The number of social network users in the United States reached 223 million in 2020, and forecasts indicate further growth.

More and more companies are using social media to research job applicants, and the federal government is getting in on the act, too. Even federal agencies are expected to run social media accounts along with the other publicly available information they provide.

Knowing how to manage your professional social presence effectively gives you a big head start in your job search. So we asked our respondents for their top tips to make the most of social media presence and improve your employability chances. Here’s what they told us.

Infographic contains five tips for creating a stronger and more professional social media presence.

Generally, the responses received are good common sense. And though they might seem obvious, they’re well worth paying attention to. Making good use of them might just be the edge you need to beat any less social media savvy competition.

An excellent social media presence is based on skillful network building and making a good impression. Potential employers will probably look for a positive and professional individual that stands out from the rest and knows how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Yes, I can imagine some people rolling eyes at these but just think about it. Your social media presence is like a book cover for your career. It’s all about making a good impression.

Whether it’s actually okay to judge the book by its cover and write somebody off based solely on their online presence or not is debatable. But the reality is, recruiters do make judgments based on your social media presence.


There is no one “right” way of handling the topic when it comes to professional social media presence.

Some people decide not to be active online at all, consciously losing some job opportunities. Others prefer to stay on top of things and make it a habit to use social networking actively. And each of these groups is right to some extent.

Should you happen to be one of the majority who are present in the world of social media then here’s what we recommend:


  • If you want success in your job search, make sure that your social profiles will attract and not deter potential employers.
  • Update your social media profiles and meticulously review your online presence.

Follow this simple advice and you’ll earn credibility with recruiters and hiring managers, boosting your employability chances in the process.


The findings presented were obtained by surveying 100 U.S. recruiters and/or hiring managers. Respondents were asked questions related to social media presence and its usage in recruiting. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and questions that allowed open responses.

Fair Use Statement

What else you can do to build a professional online presence? Post industry-related content like our findings in this study and share your thoughts on the subject on your social media.

If you think your audience will be interested in this information, we’d love you to share it for noncommercial reuse. All we ask in return is that you link back here, so that authors get full credit and your readers can view the full study.


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About the Author

Career Advice Contributor

Weronika Cekala Career Advice Contributor

Weronika Cekala is a digital writer with expertise in communication, language localization and journalism. At LiveCareer, she creates data-based content that promotes innovative solutions for job-seekers and hiring professionals. You can find her on LinkedIn.


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