Using Social Media in Candidate Selection

There are many differing views on using social networking platforms in staffing. In my last blog I explored the different parts of the staffing process, from sourcing and recruitment to selection and hiring. Specifically, in this blog we will look at how social media is used (or not used) in selection. As a refresher, selectioninvolves using multiple measures to pick high-quality candidates. These measures could include structured interviews, writing samples, essay questions, résumé review, previous performance, case studies, portfolio grading, knowledge testing, or screening tools like PrincipalInsight, HUMANeX Ventures, and Haberman Star Administrator. While many confuse selection and recruitment, they are actually different activities.

Between December 2010 and February 2011, the Society for Human Resource Management(SHRM) conducted a survey of HR professionals in various industries on social media and staffing. SHRM provides fantastic resources, development opportunities, and up-to-date research and information on everything in the HR field, from social networking to compensation. The organization compiled their findings in a report called, "Social Networking Websites for Identifying and Staffing Potential J...." Specifically, 36 percent of survey participants were from nonprofits or government organizations.

Here's what I find (extremely... extremely) interesting:

Sixty-eight percent of respondents in the SHRM survey said that they DO NOT look at social media or social networking profiles in hiring. Why? Four arguments emerged from the results as to why organizations do not review social media profiles during the selection process:
1. Legal concerns around protected information (race, color, religion, gender, etc);

2. The inability to verify information with confidence;

3. Information is not relevant to a candidate's performance or work-related potential; and

4. Not everyone uses social media.

On the flip side, of the 18 percent of respondents who use social networking sites when screening or hiring employees, 70 percent use these tools to obtain more information on candidates above résumés and cover letters as the information is easy to access. The most commonly used sites are:
• LinkedIn: 85 percent
• Facebook: 78 percent
• MySpace: 13 percent
• Twitter: 11 percent

I have a Twitter account for work, which I use to share articles, news, and other information about HR, talent management, innovation, creativity, strategy, and problem solving in education and in business (tweets are not necessarily endorsements), a LinkedIn profile for networking, and a Facebook account, which I hardly ever use. My Twitter and LinkedIn accounts were purposefully set up to build my personal brand, and I would not be worried if my employer viewed this activity. However, as an HR person, I can see how Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites could contain information on a candidate that an employer should not be privy to when making selection decisions.

For example, many people post photos of themselves on their social networking accounts which could reveal their (protected) color, race, and gender. There is an option on Facebook to post your full birth date, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, and note if you have children. All of this information should NOT be used in hiring decisions. Likewise, if you're on LinkedIn, you may notice that there's not an automatic feature for people to add their high school graduation date. This was not done by accident. A person's high school graduation year can be used to predict age. Yet, many users still list it. I choose to include information about high school on my profile to connect professionally with my fellow alumni.

There are many articles available on staffing practices and legal do's and don'ts. If you have questions, I recommend visiting U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website at

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