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The impact of social media has become undeniable in the social realms of society and increasingly is being seen as a corporate resource and not just the domain of the marketing and communications team.

Whilst social media has been something of a pest in the past for businesses, where employees were surfing the Internet during work hours, it has come to light that some HR teams, recruitment consultancies, and other bodies involved with recruiting candidates for positions are now using social media as part of their candidate screening process.

Searching the likes of Facebook in particular has become standard process either formally or informally for many companies and can be a convenient and inexpensive way of validating CVS, gaining insight into their character and deciding on whether they are likely to be a good cultural fit.

Readily available, free information on the Internet is surely the best way for businesses to avoid making costly recruitment errors?...Or is it?

Using the Likes of Facebook as Part of Your Recruitment Selection Process

If it comes to light that in using the likes of Facebook to screen candidates, you have discriminated against a candidate you could have a few legal issues on your hands...

As a recruiting organisation you should address the following:

  1. You should seek professional legal advice immediately whether or not this is part of your formal recruitment process. As with all aspects of the law if you play by the rules your company can avoid being tarnished with the highly undesirable 'discriminating' brush. Even if you don't intend to use social media to recruit it is still worth checking what records you may need to keep to prove you didn't use social media to recruit.
  2. Do you really need to screen candidates using social media? What does Facebook or other social sites add to your selection process? Your integrity as a business rests on what you do when people aren't looking so just because it's free and convenient, don't assume that it is a necessity  to use it.
  3. Keep records of how you found the candidates and anything that supports that fact that your hiring decisions were fair and based upon consistent, objective and job-relevant searches.
  4. You must also bear in mind that social media information can often only be available for a short period of time, so do not rely on finding supporting evidence of your hiring decision too far in the future.

Having a Company wide Policy on the Uses of Facebook and Other Social Media in a Recruitment Process

Are all parties involved in the recruitment process aware of your policy on social media screening? If not you could find yourself clashes with opinions on 'social media recruitment' within your team or with outside bodies...ensure there is congruency within your team and they know what your company's stance is on it.

  1. Be up front and honest with your candidates. Consider informing the candidate of your intentions to check out their profile. Should you discover anything about them that would (according to you) make them unsuitable for the position this will give them the opportunity to despute the information and provide their perspective.
  2. Use all of your resources! Yes whilst Facebook is free, easy and convenient it shouldn't be your sole method of recruiting for positions.
  3. Facebook does not always provide an accurate picture of a candidate or a balanced cross section of the population.
  4. Combining your recruiting efforts on Facebook (if you must use it) with the more traditional channels provide a much better solution to finding that perfect candidate and give a more balanced cross section. Doing this will also then be viewed as fair.

Social media appears to have broken free from the boundaries of just Marketing and Communications and has become a utility for businesses looking to recruit.

Social media is now crossing over into different sections of businesses and it is important that employees are clear on the most appropriate ways to use these channels in the content of their work. Learned social network behaviours are likely to be inappropriate for the workplace and it is your responsibility as the Managing Director, HR Manager or the hiring manager etc to establish clear policies for your team and promote them as necessary. These policies need to be clear and actionable to avoid any misunderstandings or grey areas.

There appears to be a two-way responsibility here; job seekers need to be aware and responsible for their social footprint but it is also the employers responsibility to be mindful of how to communicate and remember that when at work different boundaries apply. It is the HR team's responsibility to use this plethora of information sensibly and ethically. Importantly for any company who ever hire staff....ensure that you are protected from the various risks of hiring using social media and behave ethically.

Further Reading: The Dangers of Social Media When Searching for a Job - Protect Your Data

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