How to Safely Use Social Media as a Recruitment Tool


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Hiring a new employee can be challenging in and of itself. Finding the right candidates and learning about what makes them tick without violating their privacy can be a great balancing act, especially for small business owners with limited time and resources. Throw social media in to the mix, and you can expose your business to potential risk -- and even lawsuits.

David Wilkins, vice president of Taleo Research, a talent management consulting group, said it’s important for businesses to incorporate social media recruiting into their hiring processes. Although job boards and company recruiting sites are still where the majority of hires originate, social recruiting is and will likely continue to gain traction.

However, sites like LinkedIn and Facebook might not necessarily be representative of the overall available candidate pool, Wilkins said. For example, Taleo Research found only 5% of African Americans are using LinkedIn, which is less than half of the U.S. African American population. The site also skews older than social networks like Facebook and Twitter, he said.

“If you rely too heavily on these social approaches, you are looking at challenges of discrimination on the basis of age, race and more,” he said.

One positive aspect of social recruiting is that it enables you to post open jobs on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, so that those who already engaged with your business online can access them, according to Diane Pfadenhauer, president of Employment Practices Advisors.

“If you develop a following, you can also find out who knows you and supports your business, and those are all good things for applicants,” Pfadenhauer said. “To the extent that you have people interested in working with you that know about your business, that cuts down on the time you have to go through the interview process because the cream will rise to the top in theory.”

Wilkins said some companies are taking this a step further and posting actual YouTube videos of their “best and brightest” employees describing a day in their life at the company, or a job opening the business is seeking applicants for.

“Companies usually have largely untapped pools of talent in their businesses that are disengaged,” he said. “We are not leveraging the talent we have. Make sure they are highly engaged, and they will become advocates for your company.”

Having your current employees refer potential hires to you via social media is a great way to find new workers, and having them refer your business to their network is valuable as well, Wilkins said. However once you have your candidate pool, be wary how much of their social media presence you take into consideration

“If you do have access to peoples Facebook accounts, you are immediately exposing yourself to risk,” Wilkins said. “There are safe ways to do this—LinkedIn is an online professional persona, and it is expected [to be taken into consideration] in the hiring process.”

However, Pfadenhauer said viewing someone’s Facebook account before making a hiring decision could pose a risk of lawsuits.

“You may find something [on their Facebook profile] that is a protected characteristic like their religion or sexual orientation—something that is not visually apparent,” she said. “Even if you don’t use it as a basis for employment, people may accuse you of that.”

Accuracy is another concern Pfadenhauer said, so her lesson to business owners is to Google with caution. Just because you find a profile or information with your applicants’ name doesn’t mean it’s true, or even the actual person you are searching for.

“An Internet image can be created, corrected and fixed,” she said. “Make sure if you are doing a background check it is with a legitimate company that has insurance.”