Social networks have become the place where billions of people hang out and share their lives with the world. Recently, social media network executives at many of these sites have launched campaigns to monetize their sites with advertisements and product placement. The overall power of social media cannot be denied. And just like anything in the world, it can be used for good and for bad. Recruiters can harness social media for good by using its enhanced features to recruit the new talent, but it does have its drawbacks.

As an HR professional, I love to hear that people are finding jobs via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. With the global economy still suffering and the U.S. unemployment rate at 7.3%, there are millions of people looking for work. So, why not use the biggest communication and engagement tools to place people in jobs that match their skills and experience? It’s just smart business.

But not everyone is happy that employers are using social media to find potential employees. In fact, the average Facebook and Twitter user does not like the fact that what they share online can be used against them when they are looking for or hoping to retain a job.

In HR, whenever new technology or forms of communication come along, we tend to try to limit their encroachment instead of using them to our advantage. Facebook is 10 years old, and we are just now starting to leverage its power as a recruitment tool.

When email first entered the workplace in the late 80s and early 90s, companies didn’t like it at first. They wanted to stop it because it was killing productivity.  Then, companies enlisted their HR departments to establish rules to control it. Finally, they realized they could not control it, so they tried to police it. That’s also nearly impossible, so companies decided, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” and began using it to send memos, training updates, and even disciplinary warnings. Same thing happened with instant messaging, online chatting, mobile devices, and now social media.

Social media recruiting is on the rise. Jobseekers are using mobile technology and social media networks to find and share jobs from great companies. In turn, recruiters are using these same sites more and more to find “top” talent.  That’s wonderful, but remember when I mentioned that there are some bad things on social media? Unfortunately, some people love to share their bad behavior. Did you know that one of the first places police departments and lawyers look for evidence is social media sites?

It’s well known that one of the most, if not the most costly decision a company makes is the hiring decision. For an employee with a salary of $35,000, the initial investment is something like $50,000 – the higher the salary, the higher the initial investment. It takes about 6 months to get an ROI. That’s why we perform background checks and reference checks before making hiring decisions. And social media adds another valuable dimension to background checks.

It enables us to look at prospective employees in an entirely different light. We can see their interactions, thoughts, feelings, and habits. You will never be able to predict employee behavior 100%, but with the way most people overshare on Facebook we can get a glimpse into their personality. This is valuable information from a recruitment standpoint. It can save a company tens of thousands of dollars.

According to a recent survey, 39% of companies use social media sites to research job applicants.  Of those, 43% said they have found information that caused them not to hire someone, while only 19% said they had found something that positively impacted the hiring decision. Fifty percent of those who decided not to hire someone based on the individual’s social media profile did so because the candidate “posted provocative/inappropriate photos/info.”  48% discovered information about the candidate drinking alcohol or using drugs, and 28% reported finding that the candidate had made discriminatory comments relating to race, gender, religion, and other protected classes.  Additionally, 33% found that the candidate had bad-mouthed a previous employer.  – Source:  CareerBuilder.com

Those are alarming statistics. Social media brings out the worst in some people. For reasons I can’t comprehend, let alone explain, they share the most intimate details of their lives or inappropriate and insensitive remarks. 

There are plenty of examples of people who have lost their jobs because of social media posts, detailed in an article by Alex Bracetti, “25 Facebook Posts That Have Gotten People Fired”. Employers, recruiters, and hiring managers cannot ignore the fact that social media can assist them in finding employees who fit their company’s culture.

Using social media to find the best talent is a great move. Social media doesn’t just bring negative information to recruiters, it brings real information to recruiters – and, whether you like it or not, it can’t be ignored.  It’s just smart business.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com and SmartRecruiters.com . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on Oprah.com. He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.

4 Comments

  • Avatar Nick says:

    Despite all the positive things about social media recruiting we can’t narrow our recruiting sources to only this one. Social media can’t be a replacement for other recruiting processes, as even more and more people tend to jobhunt on social media networks there are still some bright minds out there who are reluctant to act this way. Social media is a rich source of candidates, but it’s not the only one.

  • Avatar Connor Biggs says:

    I agree with Nick and think that we must treat social media as an enhancement, not a replacement of all the other recruiting sources or techniques. Narrowing our search to only one source we put ourselves into the danger of wrong hire even more than usual. Moreover it’s very important for recruiter to know and to be where the candidates are, and since each and every person has a different way of jobhunting strategy, we can’t allow ourselves to become an adherent of one method/source.

  • Avatar Ana Hanby says:

    I think we’re missing a very important point here – what’s the legal view on social media recruiting? Checking a candidate’s private information on his/her social media profile could make us susceptible to charges of discrimination! Employers must also be familiar with the “offduty” laws in their states. For example, I know for sure that most states prohibit employers from taking an adverse employment action based on an employee’s off-duty conduct. 

  • Avatar Brian says:

    I think that there’s one more relevant point that wasn’t mentioned here – you may be lost among the thousands of other people using social media for recruiting, since it’s quite difficult to stand out and make an unforgettable impression. That’s why must no longer recruit people, we must engage them, reach out to them by ways of staring a conversation at the least.

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