Now that platforms like Facebook have been around for over a decade, there is no denying that social media plays an increasingly large part in the way we connect and communicate with each other. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has published several reports and articles on how best to deal with online research in the recruitment sector, including this article.
According to a survey, 43% of employers use social networking sites to research potential candidates. Another 45% check out possible recruits by conducting research on Google or another search engine. A study by the same website found that two in five companies now use social-networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to research potential candidates.
It’s easy to see why recruiters are tempted by online research. Many are looking to see if a candidate is likely to fit into their company and professional team. By studying a candidate’s online behaviour, recruiters can find out how their applicants behave in their day-to-day lives. However, these social-media checks can sometimes provide the recruiter with a reason not to even offer the candidate in question an interview. Not that long ago, spelling mistakes on a CV were a deal breaker. Now, bad-mouthing a previous employer on Facebook, using foul language in on-line forums or making insensitive jokes on Twitter are more likely to throw a spanner in the works.
The most important question recruiters should ask themselves is whether the information they are researching is strictly relevant to the job the candidate is applying for. Although it’s important for recruiters to find out if the applicant might bring their client’s organisation into disrepute or cause difficulties at the workplace, there is a difference between social media that is used for mainly private purposes and social media that is used for professional purposes. In practical terms, this means that it is far more acceptable to research a candidate on LinkedIn than it is scrolling through their Facebook profile.
There is no law against recruiters researching candidates on-line, as long as they make sure to take reasonable steps to validate the accuracy of any of the information they have accessed online. They should also apply the same level of care in avoiding unconscious bias when carrying out online research, as they would when conducting any other part of the recruitment process. On-line, employers can give themselves access to all sorts of information they are not legally allowed to consider in the hiring process, such as gender, race, religion and health status.
If social media does throw up reasons to believe a candidate is not right for the job, the applicant should always be given a chance to respond to the findings.
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