Illustration by Jon Krause
When easing back into civilian life, veterans are often directed to turn to social media platforms to seek support from family, friends and peers. However, a substantial percentage of veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to Pew Research Center. Veterans may post about their military experiences or PTSD on their personal social media channels. But using social media could result in unintended consequences when seeking employment.
Jason Thatcher, professor of management information systems (MIS), and his co-authors—Wenxi Pu, Philip L. Roth, Christine Nittrouer and Mikki Hebl—express how, despite privacy controls and settings on social media platforms, veterans’ PTSD status can still be found by hiring managers who screen personal profiles during the hiring process. They outline their findings in “Post-traumatic stress disorder and hiring: The role of social media disclosures on stigma and hiring assessments of veterans,” published in Personnel Psychology
“My interest in social media disclosures and the stigma around PTSD heightened when the Afghanistan conflict was at its peak and there was a lot of U.S. veterans coming home,” says Thatcher. “After returning home, many of these veterans went online to get help, not realizing that this may negatively impact them regarding job opportunities. Veterans may be harmed or impacted negatively by being active on social media, which led us to want answers.”
Thatcher emphasizes that through interviewing executives, he found a common theme of employers using social media to evaluate veterans or other potential employees. As companies clarify guidelines for social media background checks, veterans should be aware of how their PTSD disclosure may impact their job searches.
“This article clearly shows that employers will view veterans with PTSD with suspicion as a possible source of peril or threat, which results in lower hiring rates,” says Thatcher. “Our research indicates that roughly 16% to 34% of veterans included cues of PTSD on social media and that these veterans were stigmatized by hiring managers because of stereotypes.”
As a result of the research findings, Thatcher urges recruiters to focus on candidates’ professional qualifications rather than on personal disclosures. He also advises companies to clarify guidelines for social media background checks.
“I suggest that organizations develop training courses to better evaluate social media posts,” says Thatcher. “In the meantime, veterans, their family and friends alike should be aware of how unintended disclosure over social media can negatively affect the job search.”
3 ways to prevent employment stigma
- Be aware of social media platforms’ privacy settings
- Create clear guidelines on how they use social media for the hiring process
- Train employees to properly conduct a background check on social media in order to reduce preconceived notions or stigma