There are obvious advantages to using social media to recruit new talent for your company. They all stem from the abundance of information that's now available through all of the social media sites. The longer list, I think, comes from the many cautions of using social media in recruitment. Why don't we start off by talking about the dangers of using social media to recruit potential employees?
Sure. Probably the biggest danger is, when utilizing social media for recruitment as well as screening practices, my biggest pitfall is the potential adverse impacts. I'm sure we'll get into this as we move along, but in regards to recruiting, there's a potential adverse impact if only using social media because not everyone has a Facebook page and not everyone goes to Linked In. In fact, not everyone even has a computer in this day and age, if you can believe that. We have to worry about not having a full applicant pool because we have limited ourselves on the assumption that people are going to these social media sites for their potential next job.
You said something there that's a little surprising. I think that most of us tend to assume that everybody's got a computer, everybody's got a smartphone, everybody's got a laptop or something where they can get online and sign up for a free Facebook account.
Absolutely. That is what we all assume, but I will tell you that my father still refuses to even get a cell phone. I can't even get this guy to get like an old fashioned flip phone. He's like, "Oh, no, no. I won't do it. I'm still going to stick with my land line." He probably still uses dial up on his home computer. Yeah, we all assume, we all assume everybody's got a computer in their back pocket or at least one at the house. If they don't, we assume they're going to the library. There are pockets, not only here in Colorado, but across the nation where there is a population of folks who do not have access to online recruiting, much less a Facebook or Linked In page. We are not reaching that population if we are solely relying on online and social media recruiting. That certainly does not look good in the eyes of the EEOC.
I think that a lot of times that people will post all these numbers, the number of Facebook users and number of Linked In users and it can be easy to get caught up in that and forget that just because it's available, doesn't mean that it's universal.
Absolutely. Going back to the EEOC, I think one bit of word of wisdom that I'd like to share with your audience is when you are recruiting and utilizing social media to post your job announcements, we still need to remember to include the EEO and AA taglines. Just because we're using social media doesn't mean that the EEOC is giving us a pass on not posting their taglines. That is something I find that a lot of my HR colleagues are forgetting when they're using the social media platform for their recruiting efforts.
I think that on platforms like Twitter where you're limited to 140 characters, it can be easy to either forget or overlook that kind of thing and say, "Well, I've only got 140 characters, I need to get this post in there," but I think with a little bit of creativity, just putting another minute of thought into it, it can be done.
Before we get into the screening process and social media, I want to ask you, it seems like a lot of people use social media and recruitment at the very beginning of the process. Is that the best way to do it? Does it matter if you use it before the interview, after the interview?
I don't know if there is ever a good time to slot that in. There's so much we need to be aware of and there hasn't been a lot of guidance yet on the matter. I think as we evolve in this area of recruiting and screening, we will start seeing court cases that will help define the boundaries.
Talk to me about the screening process.
Sure. I think that a lot of employers are enjoying the investigative, putting on that detective hat to find out everything they can about their applicants. Folks are going on to Facebook pages, they're Googling, they're going to check out Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn profiles to gather as much information as possible to make an employment decision.
However, I have to fair warn my HR colleagues out there that we've got some mine fields we need to be aware of when doing this. First and foremost, how are we obtaining the information? For example, are we doing a Google search where we're accessing public information or are we trying to find some sneaky back door where we can show off our detective skills to our managers and say, "Oh, guess what I found out about applicant A. I found out this, that, and the other thing."
I need to caution you on how you obtain that information because you could be invading privacy of your applicant. The other thing that we need to be worried about is when we obtain access to this information, what kind of information are we seeing and is it protected status information that may lead to an adverse employment decision.
For example, if you go on to somebody's Facebook page and you see a pattern of every weekend they are posting the various places they've gone to smoke pot and get drunk and do all kinds of unfavorable activities and you're, "Oh, this person's a mess. They probably will call in sick every Monday and have an excuse not to come in on Friday. I can just see this being a potential problem."
You've learned insightful nuggets about these individuals that may be considered protected. Now you're making an employment decision based on this that could have an adverse effect. Had you had not seen this individual personal Facebook page or Twitter handle information. I would caution that unless this is information you're willing to ask in an interview like, "What do you do on Saturday nights," then is that really relevant information that you should be putting on the detective hat and searching the internet to find out. We need to look at it from that lens.
I want to go back to something and clarify a point you made with a question here. If I do a Google search for a specific applicant, the information that comes up, is that public information? If I can find it on Google, does that make it okay to dig through?
If it's on Google and you didn't have to do any sleuthing to get to it, well, then fair game. That is public information. My words of wisdom would be in this situation, is that if you're going to do a Google search on somebody, by golly, you should do a Google search on every applicant. Let's do it consistently.
Then, if you do find information, print it out, and document your items of concern. If it is of concern, then I think the applicant has the right to defend themselves. Right? I found this information about you in a Google search, it is concerning to us as a potential employer, can you please explain this to me. Ask them for an explanation of the information that you found and give them that opportunity to do so.
I think that's a pretty key point you made there, that the way you treat one applicant needs to be consistent across all the applicants.
Right. For my HR colleagues out there, I would, as a guidance, I would look at the Fair Credit Reporting Act. I think the Fair Credit Reporting Act has great guidance when obtaining information that could potentially impact the employment decision, for example, on a credit report. I think the way they handled that information are great points that can carry over to information that we are finding out through social media.
To elaborate on one other point before it leaves my mind, I think when, especially utilizing Facebook since there's a lot of back and forth between our potential applicants and their other friends, I think that we need to make sure that we hone in on our candidates' responses and not do 'guilty by association' because they have a friend going off on a rant. I think we need to watch out that we're not associating that person with another person's posting and what others are saying about something. I think we need to make sure we're being objective and only looking at that candidate's feed and not the postings of others on their page.
What happens if a hiring manager sees something concerning or suspicious, but hires the individual anyway and then, down the road, these suspicions are confirmed and it blows up into this big problem?
Sure. What popped into my mind is negligent hiring. Most of us go through some kind of background screening process when getting through the final stages of their recruiting process. We call references and we call previous employers to see if there's anything that we need to be aware of. If we're panning information from a social media platform, which if someone had told us that this person has domestic violence issues, I think that we need to think about that seriously and think about the safety of our employees. Certainly things like that are of huge concern.
My words of wisdom in regards to that scenario is, I think it would be best served if when doing these screenings through a social media platform to have the HR professional do it. They know the lay of the land, they know the parameters, and they can then make an educated decision on what information needs to be passed on to the manager and what information needs to be held in a protected area.
Sometimes if the manager finds out something, then their knee jerk reaction might be, "Well, I don't want to hire them." When the HR professional looks at the situation, they're like, "Well, this is a protected status and we can't hold it against this individual," or, "That's right. This could cause a safety issue so let's visit this," in which case I would refer to the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, print out the documents, and put it in front of the candidate and say, "We found this content online and we were wondering if you could explain this to us."
It's in the same context, as far as, if you were to run a criminal background check. If you run a criminal background check on somebody and you find out that six months ago they went to jail for being in a bar fight, you probably are going to have that conversation with that applicant to determine, "Okay, what was the situation?" We need to give them an opportunity to explain themselves, all the while making sure that we're not coercing them into divulging private information. It's a bit tricky, but I think that the HR professional within the company is going to be able to best navigate each of these situations.
What should companies keep in mind, and HR professionals keep in mind, as they are writing new policies on social media and improvement?
Sure. Definitely you want to put together parameters. You want to state your guidelines, whether anybody has permission to do this or if this needs to be coordinated with their HR professional. We want to train our managers on recruiting and social media and what that looks like.
Possibly put together a FAQ to help guide them and in figuring out what those parameters look like. Do you do it or do you not do it? If you do, who's in charge? Who can do it? Who's got authority and what does that look like? It may not be a policy, but more of a procedural map that provides guidelines and steps to the manager so they know what's okay, and what's not okay, and who's responsible.
Do you have any final words of wisdom or resources, in addition to the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
That brings up a good point. In regards to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there's the Federal Stored Communications Act, which basically prohibits unauthorized access to stored messages via email and voice mail. Again, that protects an applicant or even an employee's personal email and voice mail accounts.
I think sometimes we like to put on our detective hat and try to uncover everything we can so we look good in front of our hiring managers, but we can't forget about the protected privacy of our applicants and even our employees once they're with us. I would encourage HR professionals to look at that as well.
I'm always an advocate of SHRM and so going to the shrm.org website and searching for policies and guidance in regards to social media and recruiting. There is a ton of information that they provide on this topic that will help determine what you should do in your own workplace because every workplace has their own culture and their own thoughts in regards to social media.
We hope this was helpful. Again, make sure you share this with your HR and Hiring managers.
Have a great week!