Social research company Reppler recently published some findings about the use of social media in talent acquisition and hiring decisions that makes for interesting reading. Although the sample is only 300 hiring professionals and the sample is not published, given that some professional services organisations, for example, make public pronouncements that they do NOT as a matter of principle use “private” social media in the selection process, the study nonetheless claims that a whopping 91% of hiring professionals (it is unclear if these are agencies or in-house talent acquisition and/or hiring managers) use social media to screen prospective employees.
That’s not the surprising statistic – what is surprising is the one that asserts that 69% have rejected a candidate based on what they have seen (e.g. inappropriate photographs, comments, etc.). The opposite also appears to be true – that a positive social media presence can influence the hiring decision as well (68%).
Now I am not a choirboy. I have been known to dance on a table in my underwear in a bar, but where do you draw the line?
CEOs and senior leaders still see attracting talent as a major priority in growing and sustaining their businesses in tough conditions, so it’s more important than ever that you hire the right talent who will come, get the job, and stick around.When you hire someone, you want to have as much information as possible when you make that decision. Where do you draw the line? Background checks are reasonably routine these days, but is poking around on someone’s Facebook profile a legitimate approach?
GE does some amazing work, while Deloitte and many others use Facebook as a recruitment channel. Ericsson, on the other hand, consciously avoids it (and it is by design if you look at their rather stunningly sophisticated search advertising efforts on LinkedIn). They advertise on Facebook to drive you to their careers site if you search for “Ericsson” or “Ericsson jobs” – but there are tumbleweeds on Facebook if you want to join an Ericsson group. A far cry from Sony Ericsson.
Two issues to ponder.
First, the Equality Act of 2010 is intended to consolidate a range of legislation around employment and discrimination and states that discrimination is unlawful when an employer is hiring a person, in the terms and conditions of contract that are offered, in making a decision to dismiss a worker, or any other kind of detriment. “Direct discrimination”, which means treating a person less favourably than another who lacks the protected characteristic (protected characteristics include things like race, religion, sexual orientation etc.). Now while “conduct” might not be a protected characteristic, conduct observed third-hand on a social media site could well stray into some very risky territory for the prospective employer.
Second, as people become more adept at engaging with social media they are also become more sophisticated in terms of their levels of awareness of their digital footprint and their data protection and privacy rights.
In summary, I think while a lot of employers are patting themselves on the back for their clever and innovative use of “social media” to build their reputation in the marketplace, this could very, very easily backfire. My intuition – and that is all it is – is that Ericsson is spot on, and by taking the moral high ground might well be protecting their own reputation as an employer – indeed enhancing it – as a technology company that knows where to draw the line.