Three Truths of Modern Candidate Screening

One high profile incident regarding candidate recruitment and selection has popped up on our radar lately. More specifically, an internet technology specialist and newly nominated election candidate was forced to bow out of the campaign because of his less-than-desirable profile on the internet. Although several years old, his words continue to suggest a hatred for women and they have definitely come back to haunt him. Like lightning, he was struck down instantly. His future political job opportunity is now gone forever.


In my view, the situation suggests three issues. First, no matter the organization, whether it is a political party, a volunteer agency and/or a company, the need for effective candidate screening and reference checking process is critical. Secondly, the issue highlights the fact that not only are political competitors searching candidate profiles on the internet, so too are employers. And, thirdly, does the concept of “stale dating” for cheques in the banking world, also apply to words written years ago but are still in one’s profile or embedded in one’s music lyrics?

The need for candidate screening has been well recognized and has become much more comprehensive in the employment world. Screening candidates today usually includes a series of telephone and face-to-face interviews with different levels of participants. Highly accurate psychometric assessments have become critical to an overall assessment of one’s character, personality and communication style. In addition, most organizations now screen candidates through comprehensive background checks that include a range of reviews. These can include verification of employment, education and credentials, credit inquiries, identity cross checks, driver abstracts and criminal checks.

Secondly, candidates have to accept that employers are indeed conducting internet searches to determine if a candidate’s online profile is aligned with what is being presented to the potential employer. Is this type of “informal reference” valid?  Absolutely! The internet is public information and since employers need a well rounded view from both a personal and professional perspective, using the internet has become a valuable source of confirmation. So, word to the wise to candidates, beware what you put on your social media sites!

The third of “stale dating” is a bit more complicated. The issue is whether or not an employer should consider candidate information that is dated years past. In other words, when does information become “stale dated” like a cheque? Should words be considered outdated at all? And, do people’s thoughts, values and beliefs change?  While I do believe that people can change, I also believe that words and actions are deeply embedded in a person’s values and ethics and will change only with significant personal effort.

Thankfully, security monitoring of the internet is rising to new levels with special police services now scouring the “net” for predators, criminal harassment, criminal activity, bullying and other social media crimes. And, people on the receiving end of social media harassment are also increasingly reporting the issues.

All in all, times have changed and so has the world of words. With that said, I believe that the old rhyme, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me”, is simply no longer true. Words will not only come back to haunt you and unfortunately, the negative impact of words can take on a life of its own, destroying one’s career for a long period of time.

Words written early in one’s career will certainly surface through the search process and will be taken into consideration. The issue is whether or not the values, beliefs and actions that are seen over time are aligned with the psychometric and other assessment results learned from the screening processes.  And as you would expect, consideration for the client organization must always be kept in mind.

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