Social Media and the Recruitment and Selection Process

Who are you? What is your online persona? Is it an accurate reflection of your true self? Is it carefully crafted and curated to show the best version of yourself? And what would you do if you knew potential employers were using Social Media for selection and recruitment?

For years now we’ve heard it, from parents and from teachers. “Be careful what you post online, you’ll need to find a job some day,” “don’t post anything on Social Media you wouldn’t want your employer to see.” As a teen and young adult, I never much concerned myself with what potential employers would think if they came across one of my Social Media accounts. But it is becoming ever more clear that employers are consistently using Social Media in the selection and recruitment process. This blog post will examine this practice and its potential effects.

A study in 2009 found that ” more than 30% of organizations use Facebook to learn about job candidates, and 80% of organizations factor this information into the hiring process (source). In the 5 years since then, it has become standard procedure for employers and Human Resources departments to screen potential candidates using Social Media (up to 93%). What does this mean for employers?

There are a few issues that can arise from the practice of using Social Media for screening, including privacy concerns, validity, and discrimination. By validity we mean, are pictures on Facebook and 140-character tweets really the best indicator of whether an individual will perform or excel at their job? In some cases, yes. Think about a candidate for a heavily written communications-based job making constant spelling and grammar mistakes. But in most cases, the answer is either no or unsure. Does use of profanity mean and individual can’t work with the public? Does casual drinking on the weekends mean a candidate will not excel during the week? And where is the line for discrimination when we decide against a candidate based on a photo or post we dislike?

“Any information posted on the internet is considered “public domain” and can be used however an organization wishes to use it as long as these decisions do not discriminate under the Civil Rights Act or any other law forbidding discrimination (e.g., Age Discrimination Act).  However, organizations should tread carefully here, as information—such as race and age—is readily available online, and accusations of discrimination might be made based on the perception that this sensitive information is used” (source).

What does this mean for you? While it’s probably not necessary to pare down your Social Media to an extreme just to please potential employers, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that they will be looking. Drug references, posts of a sexual nature, use of profanity, and mentions of guns and alcohol are all turn-offs to potential employers (source). While those examples may seem obvious, employers also cite poor spelling and grammar and strong political affiliations/opinions as potential deal breakers.

Living your life on Facebook and Twitter is not necessarily a bad thing – but remember that the HR department at your dream job are also on Social Media.

What do you think? Is it okay for employers to screen candidates using Social Media? And do you change your online habits based on that fact?

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