Social Media in the Recruitment Process

There is no doubt that the exponential rise of social media over the last 15 to 20 years greatly assists the promotion and awareness of an organisation. Specifically, within a recruitment function, social media has been key tool in positioning the “employment branding” of an organisation and is a fundamental…

There is no doubt that the exponential rise of social media over the last 15 to 20 years greatly assists the promotion and awareness of an organisation. Specifically, within a recruitment function, social media has been key tool in positioning the “employment branding” of an organisation and is a fundamental tool practical sourcing of applicants and talent. With the momentous events of recent years, the competition for talent has increased dramatically. Changes to the nature of employment, the way internal teams interact with each, and the way organisations transact with customers has meant many organisations have had to reconsider their employer branding. The rise of social media and on-line tools have enabled many of these changes to occur.

As we all know, social media has many different platforms – and, more than likely, each person has their “go-to”. The most popular platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, and Snapchat. LinkedIn also has a significant number of users but tends to be in more professional space. Each of these platforms have some key, common characteristics, (1) they allow their users to create a public or partially public profile, (2) they enable rapid connection with others on the site and (3) users can view and explore content created by their connections or the connections of others.

The practice of incorporating information acquired from social media is quite common in the recruitment and selection practice, however there are concerns around potential employers making judgement on employees and the reliability and validity of the information on social media.

There are potential legal concerns surrounding whether social media should be used as a screening tool in the recruitment and selection process. These concerns are predominant on the more “social” platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, which are used for drastically different purposes than platforms such as LinkedIn. While many users (read: potential employees) have varying degrees of privacy on their profiles, hiring managers have the capacity to view the profiles of a prospective employee and be exposed to a wealth of knowledge of that person. Favorite movies, what activities they do on the weekend, clubs they may be members of, or other special interests they may have, are readily seen.  This is not an unusual practice as this information, by virtue of it being on social media, is in the public domain. The legal issue that may arise however, is when some organizations want their prospective employee to disclose their usernames and passwords as part of the screening process! Sounds unreal, however, it has been well documented that it occurs. (Check out Landers & Schmidt: Social Media in Employee Selection and Recruitment) … and while the practice of disclosing your username and password will likely violate the social media platforms terms and conditions, bizarrely, depending on your jurisdiction, the prospective employer asking for this disclosure, may not be violating any laws!

Among the many dangers of using social media as part of the screening process, is that it can often lead to assumptions about a person that may not be correct. An example used by Landers and Schmidt is a transport company looking to employ a new driver. The recruitment and selection team then choose to view a potential employees social media account. They are specifically looking for the individual’s post or activities that involve alcohol, as these are considered high risk activities from the perspective of the role applied for. However, as Landers & Schmidt point out, these types of social media posts and activities may have more to do with the individuals extraversion, rather than their conscientiousness. Following this example, is the use of social medial as a primary driver in a hiring decision a negligent act or would the negligence lie in not using the information gleaned from social media?  Certainly, some social media platforms provide a vital tool in the screening and processing of employment application. For example, if an employer was to look at a more commercial position that needed to be filled – say, an accountant – the employer may use LinkedIn to view the candidate’s profile, their professional posts and use the information to establish their level of professionalism to identify any anomalies.

It is so important for organizations to start recognizing the changes of recruitment and adapt to new recruitment processes. These modern processes are crucial for organizations to stay relevant in this competitive market for talent. If an organization wishes to use the assessments of social media for the purposes of recruitment and selection, they should have internal, well-conducted and well-documented evidence of the social media assessments that relate to predicting job performance. Many (if not all) organistions have policies for their employees around social media use and how their use can impact the organistions brand and public perception. Based on this, it is worth considering having policies in place for how and when social media should be used in the recruitment process.

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