Screening Job Seekers on Social Networks: How Far Is Too Far?

ZipRecruiter: The New Face of Social RecruitingThe days are gone when a hand-delivered or snail-mailed resume is enough information to decide whether or not hire a job applicant. Just as the Internet has changed the way we distribute job postings, so too has it changed the way we recruit and screen job seekers. Google an applicant’s name and dozens, hundreds, or thousands of impressions might show up. Head over to the Big 3 social networks and find even more information. But what should you do with it all?

Just like a superhero, with great power comes great responsibility. It turns out there is such a thing as too much data. Understanding when to collect social media data and when to go bare-bones is critical.

Are You Totally LinkedIn?

Casting a job announcement to the LinkedIn world might get you flooded with responses. Some of the candidates will be great fits while others will be completely out of left field. In order to distinguish between the two, it’s important that you focus on the right things.

It’s obvious to browse the prospective employee’s work and education history to make sure it’s a match. Beyond this, look for credible recommendations and endorsements, past projects, writing samples, and other professional work. Also take note of the type of updates the person posts. Is he posting about professional and industry-related topics? Or is he using this professional network to broadcast unprofessional content?

Speaking of professionalism, what does the person’s photo tell you? Has he even taken the time to add a photo? As appearance is highly subjective, be sure you stick to gauging the professionalism of the photo rather than the person’s looks.

Playing Sherlock

When you’re charged with filling an important position, you might feel inclined to use whatever means are at your disposal. If you keep with the national trend, you’re likely Googling short-listed candidates and searching for them on Facebook. Again, how you react to what you find is going to be subjective. Humans have their biases and are prone to making snap judgements, so be aware of why you feel the need to discard or hire a candidate.

Fairness can be somewhat bolstered by committing to conduct the same level of investigation for each candidate and by holding every candidate to the same standards. Do you notice that one person’s grammatical mistakes on Twitter make you cringe, while another person’s are forgivable? Ask yourself why that is.

(Related: How Your Social Network Profiles Can Help You Get Hired)

Beyond the Initial Screening Process

Questions of social media extend beyond the initial candidate screening process. It recently came to light that candidates have lost out on a position after refusing to hand over their social media passwords during an interview. This is a controversial topic that is being taken seriously by state governments throughout the country, and it’s something that should be addressed clearly within HR and talent acquisition departments. If you’re a decision-maker in a state where asking for passwords is banned, then you need to communicate with your personnel to avoid lawsuits; if you’re a decision-maker elsewhere, then you need to decide how far is too far when looking into candidates’ online personal life.

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About the Author
Carly is a writer who is constantly looking to expand her portfolio. She has a wide variety of interests and loves writing about anything and everything (even biotech vapor compression). She loves that blogging allows her to share her writing with people all over the world.

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Posted in HR & Recruitment
  • Lynda Hallock

    I am LinkedIn, However it concerns me when ” an aspiring writer” presents an article on a subject she so obviously knows nothing about. Recruiting and the laws that apply to such a position. Terms such as ” may not be acceptable” and “highly subjective” when used in the context of recruiting potential candidates is irresponsible. Recruiters and Headhunters are subject to a “plethora” of laws they MUST follow. Sites such as Zip Recruiter,LinkedIn or Career Builders etc are but one of a hundred tools used to find good candidates. Referrals are the best recruitment tool. It is a wonderful aspiration to become a writer/blogger but please stick to something you know about. One does NOT go around snooping into FB pages or other social sites….not if you want to keep your reputation as a professional recruiter. The old adage : “do one thing and do it well” still holds true.

    • Carly Fierro (@carlyfie)

      Hello Lynda, thank you for your comment! Perhaps in traditional business recruitment these things have not yet caught on completely, but I think it is a matter of time. However, you should know that I am in particular writing from the perspective of someone recently employed in new media. For my last job, I was required to list all of my social networks (even Facebook and Pinterest, of all things) on my resume! The landscape of recruitment is changing, and employers will need to be aware of the potential issues with this. The fact that laws are just now going into effect that prohibit employers from demanding Facebook passwords and password-protected information means that employers were obviously trying to use this information as part of the hiring process – something we can’t ignore.

  • Argentus Talent Acquisition

    Great post! I think that requesting passwords is a little extreme, but almost everyone has a public presence on the Internet, and I can’t really fault employers for trying to use all the tools at their disposal and do their due diligence,