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Gen Z admits to stalking bosses on social media. What they find could determine whether they join the team.

July 7, 2022, 2:08 PM UTC
Hands Of Woman Using Laptop Over Colored Background
“Insta-stalking” can help job candidates assess a company’s culture.
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Turns out, stalking someone’s social media in the workplace is a two-way street: It’s not just a way for managers to vet new hires, but a way for job hunters to get the lowdown on a potential boss. 

More than half (54%) of young workers research individual managers on social media when prepping for interviews, a new survey by recruiting software firm iCIMS found. Of the 1,000 recent grads it polled, 70% also admitted to looking at employers’ sites when prepping for interviews. Gen Zers say all the online snooping helps them determine whether a job will be the right fit.

Ollie Lash-Williams, a marketing executive in the U.K., tells Fortune he “can’t imagine” not stalking a potential manager, because of how revealing a social media presence can be.

“One of the reasons I fought to get a previous role was that hiring manager’s [social media] showed someone creative, innovative, ambitious,” he explains. “I figured that would make her exciting to work for.”

His read turned out to be correct, as he found her to be an “inspiring” boss and one of the best he’s ever worked for. Another search for a different role proved the opposite: Lash-Williams considered the social media profile of a would-be coworker to be “abrasive.” He took the job anyway, but found that coworker extremely difficult to work with and quit not long after. 

Beyond looking at just individual employees, “Insta-stalking” is a popular tool for assessing a company’s culture. In 2020, career site The Muse published a how-to piece for job seekers outlining exactly how to find their future boss’s page online—and how to leverage what you find in an interview to establish a rapport with them. But, it acknowledges, doing so can be a fine line to walk.

But managers social-media creep, too

Perhaps stalking potential bosses is so common because employees often worry about employers creeping on them first. In a 2018 Gartner report, half of large corporations admitted to monitoring the content of employee emails and social media accounts. 

That’s within their rights; there are no federal laws that prohibit the practice, and companies may have good reason to do it if they suspect a worker is posting things that don’t align with the brand reputation. Some may cite constitutional rights to freedom of expression, but discipline for what’s posted on public social media pages—both of job candidates and hiring managers—are fair game. 

That’s why Sarah Fraser, a public relations executive in the Bay Area, keeps all her social media accounts under lock and key. “I have nothing to hide, it’s just too easy for people to stalk,” she tweeted at Fortune

Recruiters say there are better ways of getting a read on a company than snooping through its employees’ Instagram accounts. In the iCIMS survey, they said video testimonials on a company’s site from employees, detailed job descriptions, and social media and email or text campaigns with candidates would go a long way toward bridging the gap between on-paper and real-life experience.  

But, considering that they’re among those being snooped on, they might be a little biased. Lash-Williams maintains that would-be coworkers’ social media pages can be some of the best indicators of a future employer experience for job seekers. “It’s almost reckless not to search many social media profiles as you consider a role,” he says.

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