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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

Should Human Resources Managers Use Social Media to Screen Potential Employees?

April 20, 2015

As a small business owner, human resources manager, or hiring manager, when you are seeking top candidates for open positions, naturally you want to proceed with caution. Selecting the wrong individual for a job is costly, a waste of time, and irritating to everyone involved. And when that employee separates prematurely from your company, the backlash can be higher unemployment premiums and negative word of mouth that can be detrimental to your brand.Human_Resources

The use of social media platforms to get a more accurate pulse on potential employees is a strategy to consider when you’re selecting people to interview. Employers can use social media in two ways when hiring: to recruit candidates by publicizing job openings and to conduct background checks to confirm a candidate’s qualifications for a position.

About 77 percent of companies are now using social networking sites to recruit candidates for specific jobs, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), however, only 20 percent of 651 respondents use social networking sites to research job candidates. When asked why they were not evaluating candidates based on social media, they stated that they were concerned with legal risks or discovering protected statuses like race, age, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation, that may inadvertently sway their hiring decision.

Why Use Social Media to Screen?

The advantages of using social media to screen candidates is to learn more about what is important to them. Perhaps you’ll find that an individual is affiliated with groups or clubs that are a direct contradiction to the vision of your company. Or maybe you’ll learn that he or she is enthusiastic about your industry and posts positive comments and pictures that would boost your company’s image or reputation.

While this may be a legitimate concern, the use of social media in screening candidates can be one of the most powerful tools in the hiring process, and the legal risks can be minimized. Remember, you’re looking out for the preservation, quality, and reputation of your company, and you have the right to gather information about potential employees in whatever legal manner you like. Some content posted on social media platforms should be considered to the benefit or detriment of a candidate.

Proceed With Caution

The determining factor regarding using social media to screen candidates comes down to balancing the legal risks. Human resources managers can minimize risk if the social media screening is part of the reference or background check prior to extending a conditional offer. After an individual has been interviewed, his or her membership in protected groups is already known. So, checking one’s LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook profile is not likely to reveal much more than human resources already knows.

Risk can be further minimized if human resources, rather than a hiring manager, conducts the social media check. This is because human resources knows what it can and cannot consider.

Conclusion

The advantages of using social media to screen candidates is to learn more about what is important to them. Perhaps you’ll find that an individual is affiliated with groups or clubs that are a direct contradiction to the vision of your company. Or maybe you’ll learn that he or she is enthusiastic about your industry and posts positive comments and pictures that would boost your company’s image or reputation. Either way, social media can be a useful tool to get to know your candidate before an interview.

Do you use social media to research potential candidates? Let us know your thoughts. 

 
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