2020 was the year flipped upside down. Shaking hands became waves from afar, dining out became ordering in, and talking about politics became mandatory. Amid a public health pandemic, another pandemic was unearthed from all angles: Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets and social media to raise awareness of police brutality; Trump supporters marched against mask mandates and business shutdowns; and the most consequential election in U.S. history took place. In any other year, politics would be taboo, not to be mentioned at dinner tables or endorsed on social platforms. But in 2020, the silence spoke volumes.
With consumers holding companies accountable, asking them to take a public stand, are employers doing the same with potential employees? How many employers check candidates' social media pages, and how many are impacted – negatively or positively – by seeing a political post? To see if 2020's political climate changed the approach of hiring managers, we surveyed over 1,000 employees and over 200 hiring managers to get their take. Keep reading to see what we found.
Since social media became popular, experts have provided the same advice to job seekers: clean up your social media. Hiring managers may take your resume and cover letter into account immediately, but a more in-depth look into your social media will likely follow. Our study found that a whopping 62% of hiring managers always or often checked a job applicant's social media profile. Nearly 30% reported sometimes checking social media, while just 2.2% never did.
While the majority of hiring managers (57.4%) checked social media to get additional details about a candidate's professional background, the other content found also impacted their decision to hire. Just over a quarter of hiring managers said seeing a political post on a candidate's social media would somewhat positively affect their decision to hire the candidate, while 17.6% said it would impact their decision somewhat negatively. However, for the most part, political posts had no positive or negative impact – to hiring managers, other information took precedence.
However, regardless of the type of political post, where candidates posted political messages also mattered: hiring managers considered LinkedIn to be the least appropriate platform for political posts.
For decades, politics was largely kept out of the workplace – until 2020. As political tensions rose, employees and employers aired out their differences and were left with a divided workplace.
Likely to avoid future office tiffs, a significant portion of hiring managers admitted to negatively judging candidates based on the political content posted. For 27% of hiring managers, social media posts endorsing Donald Trump for president would negatively impact their decision to hire a candidate. On the other side of the aisle, 22.1% of hiring managers said the same of social media posts endorsing Joe Biden for president. Anti-immigration posts, urging people not to vote, and criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement were also top posts that would negatively impact a hiring manager's decision to hire a job candidate.
Checking social media may be a common practice for assessing potential new employees, but what about current employees? Hiring managers were significantly less likely to check current employees' social media accounts, but 15% said they constantly did, while 27% and 30% did so often and sometimes, respectively.
While most hiring managers said they were not at all likely to engage with a co-worker's political posts on social media, that doesn't mean they aren't taken into account. One-third of hiring managers said employee political posts somewhat harmed team connections, while 7.6% felt they greatly harmed connections. Remember, the first amendment doesn't protect all employees from being fired over political posts on social media – especially if political social media posts negatively impact in-office work life.
Looking for a job and accepting a position is a two-way street. Employers often screen candidates just as much as candidates screen employers, and political stance is also considered. According to over 1,000 employees, 37.8% said they were extremely likely to check company reviews to determine the political alignment of workers there, while 34.2% said they were very likely to do the same. Only a mere 3.2% of employees said they would skip the extra screening.
Holding a similar stance as hiring managers, 40.6% of employees said evidence endorsing Donald Trump for president would negatively impact their decision to apply for a job, compared to only 21.6% reporting the same of endorsement for Joe Biden for president. Anti-immigration posts, urging people not to vote, and even supporting the idea of election fraud were also major red flags for employees.
Right, left, or smack in the middle, employers' and employees' stances on politics are no longer chalked up to a personal matter. While job applications may not explicitly ask about political affiliation, hiring managers turn to social media to see where candidates' views lie – and prospective employees are doing the same. Endorsing Donald Trump for president, even on personal social media accounts, is the easiest way to be knocked down a few notches in employers' and potential employees' eyes. Plus, not actively supporting or denouncing the most pressing social issues of 2020 – like immigration, the Black Lives Matter movement, and voting – also had a negative impact on impressions.
2020 was a year of shifting priorities, eye-opening tragedies, and daily reality checks. But 2020 also made one thing clear: Politics is no longer a taboo topic, and while you're free to express your stance on social media, employees and employers alike must be prepared to be judged for it.
Skynova offers online software for businesses that makes it easier for businesses to stay organized in a convenient way, from accounting to tracking timesheets. In addition to our services, we also report on various topics using in-depth studies to keep our customers informed on the latest business or workplace topics. Our resources include everything from management tips to company morale studies, covering subjects like technology, politics, sports, and health along the way. Our studies feature uniquely tailored surveys to explorations of datasets and interesting statistics covering a wide variety of business topics.
We surveyed 1,046 employees, along with 233 hiring managers in order to explore how political posts on social media can impact hiring decisions as well as team connections. Ages of respondents ranged from 18 to 68. For our employee group, 53.4% were men, 45.8% were women, and 1% identified as nonbinary. For our hiring manager survey pool, 60.1% were men, 39.5% were women, and less than 1% identified as nonbinary.
Survey data have certain limitations that include, but are not limited to telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory.
We did not weight our data or statistically test our hypotheses. This was a purely exploratory study of how political posts can impact the hiring process or co-worker sentiment.
The political floodgates have been opened, and it's time to discuss the impact. Employees and employers should be aware of their political posts' influence, so feel free to share our study with them for noncommercial purposes. All we ask is that you include a link back to this page to give our contributors proper credit.