TMI? The risks of recruiting using social media profiles

Social Media OutpostsFor recruitment and hiring, social media platforms can provide employers and human resources departments a wealth of information about would-be candidates.

But is it truly wise to use social media to make hiring decisions? There may be risks involved in relying on online sources that provide TMI—too much information—when choosing your next employee.

In 2012, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of employers use searches on social media –such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn — for a candidate’s character, looking at more than just resumes and applications.

First, there are privacy issues. Employers, recruiters and HR personnel need to be careful. Reviewing public profiles and sites may make getting information easier, but employers should be cautious about crossing the line into the private lives of candidates.

Human resources experts recommend that employers only request information that is relevant to the position. If it has nothing to do with the job, then it should not even be considered.

Much of the information on social media sites — like ethnicity, age, religion, marital status and sexual orientation, is considered protected by the Equality Act. Sensitive ‘protected’ information could cause employers to be exposed to discrimination claims, especially if it is not information relevant to the job.

Applicants rejected for employment could argue the real reason they didn’t get the job was due to protected information, even though it may not have been used in the hiring decision. It becomes extremely difficult to prove otherwise.

In another study, more than 30 percent of applicants would  seek further action if declined an interview or job based on information a potential employer obtained by viewing their social media profile.

One way to prevent this is by having a third-party — separate from the hiring manager — perform the social media check. Through them, a report can be supplied that is ‘scrubbed’ of any protected information.

Another problem for employers is what is called ‘recruitment bias’ — choosing potential employees according to age, gender or ethnicity based on Facebook profile pictures by recruiters, HR and hiring managers.

There is also the possibility of not choosing applicants without social media profiles or those who are not available on the internet. Early in 2012, the British Office for National Statistics reported that 16 percent of the adult population (over 8 million adults) do not use the internet, or have never been online.

Social media may be a shortcut for employers to dig deeper into a candidate’s background; it could save time, money and reduce  paperwork.

However, the cost of convenience, when  weighed against claims of violating privacy and the discrimination issues, may be too much for a company—especially small businesses—to bear.


Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: Email: Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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