Social Media’s Role In The Hiring Process


The growth of the internet has created numerous changes in how we live our lives.  We no longer call or go in person to buy goods or to arrange vacations.  Instead we go online.  The internet has replaced the library as a source for information.   Perhaps the area of greatest change though is the explosion of places where people can meet and interact on line, the social media.   YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging, Facebook and many other sites are examples of these interactions.   And just as businesses have changed to take advantage of the increasing use of the internet by consumers so too are many Human Resources departments starting to look at the social media in determining who to hire and who not to hire.

Megan Gates discusses this in her article “Preemployment Screening and Social Media” in the 9/3/2013 Security Management.  While most companies do not use social media yet in making hiring decisions, some are, and their numbers are growing.   According to a 2012 paper by Employment Screening, 30 percent of companies use “social networking information to disqualify job candidates”.   This despite the fact that there are no legal guidelines yet on how far an applicant’s internet presence can be used to make hiring decisions.

Given the challenges involved in finding and hiring good candidates and the problems that employee turnover creates, it should not be surprising that companies are not waiting.  According to Dr. Charles Handler, executive scientist for Logi-Serve, LLC,  “It’s a reality that that data trail is going to start to be crunched and munched by computers and people are going to start making decisions on those things.”

The problem though in using social media to disqualify candidates, in addition to possible future legal issues, is that they do not take the whole person into account.  It looks at only one aspect.   That can lead to poor hiring decisions that lead to increased employee turnover or, worst case, the “catastrophic hire” who makes a major error that severely damages the reputation, security or financial standing of the company.

Instead of relying on social media as a way of disqualifying candidates Dr. Handler urges companies to develop pre-employment screening tests that would better evaluate candidates’ abilities to perform crucial job functions.

“Most important is to look at the big picture—or the whole person—to assess their abilities, not just one aspect, such as social media presence, Handler said. “I really take what I call a big picture, or a whole person approach, where we use multiple tools staged within a process such that the entire process is set up in a way that supports layers of information that collectively build toward a picture of an applicant’s suitability for a job.”

A proper screening test – one that defines the various important aspects of the job, defines ways that these can be measured, gathers this information in a way that allows different candidates to be compared to each other, and then uses that information to make the decision – can not only help find a good fit it can also reduce the chances of hiring a “catastrophic hire”.

While no process is perfect, standardized hiring procedures can help provide employers with valuable information that will increase their chances of hiring a good fit to their needs.

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