1984 in 2015
Want to know some alarming statistics? According to a study by social media monitoring service Reppler, over 90% of recruiters visit a candidate’s profile on a social network as part of the screening process. A further 69% have rejected a candidate based purely on their social media content. Those figures paint an almost Orwellian picture, with candidates across the globe being scrutinised based on statuses, snapshots and associations.
We live in a world where everything you post online – whether that be an angry rant about pet peeves or a picture of a pet pooch – can be (and often is) found online by recruiters and hiring managers. And that’s an eerie thought.
The obvious exceptions
To clarify before continuing, using LinkedIn to check out a candidate’s professional credentials is perfectly fine – it’s more or less what LinkedIn was built for. Candidates have created those LinkedIn accounts to see and be seen. It’s their platform to showcase their skills and experience, and they’ve put their profile together in full knowledge that it will be assessed by recruiters during the hiring process.
Nope…LinkedIn isn’t the problem. Nor are social accounts which are clearly and unmistakably connected to the candidate’s professional career. Many people working in digital marketing jobs, for example, create specific work Twitter accounts and blogs to advance their careers. You’ll also have candidates in developer jobs who have created their own websites to showcase their range of technical skills.
These professional channels are all A-okay to investigate. Nobody’s privacy is being invaded, nothing questionable is going on and nobody is acting in an unethical way.
It’s when recruiters are thirty clicks deep into a candidate’s holiday photos that social media screening becomes an issue.
Recruiters are looking
They’re looking, and they’re looking further than you might think. Recent research from Jobvite has found that recruiters don’t just stop at LinkedIn. 66% screen via Facebook, 52% via Twitter, 21% via Google+, 20% via RSS and 15% via Youtube. With platforms such as Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat also increasingly being used for recruitment purposes, this list will only continue to expand.
Like it or not, we’re all being watched and assessed online as part of the standard recruitment process. So, where should the line be drawn? There definitely comes a point where social screening oversteps the mark. With social media profiling statistics on the rise, it’s high time to face the unpleasant reality of screening evolving into stalking.
Getting up close and personal
There’s a huge and identifiable difference between a personal social account and a professional one. Looking at the latter is valuable, as well as being fully anticipated. Dissecting the former is akin to eavesdropping on a candidate’s conversation with their close friends or observing their behaviour on a night out. It’s not relevant to the role in question and it’s also creepy. Yes, creepy.
Recruiters don’t need to be thumbing through a candidate’s Instagram account to assess whether their skills are a strong fit for the job, nor do they need to see their mundane social updates on the night’s TV to gauge their cultural fit. Those posts weren’t created for your eyes and they aren’t applicable to the candidate’s application.
Crossing the line
Let’s look at the example in which job seekers for Bozeman city posts were asked for their Facebook logins as part of the screening process. Really, that happened. As well as standard criminal record checks and past employment reviews, candidates were required to provide their details and/or passwords to:
“Any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.”
Does anybody else have the screeching violin music from the Psycho shower scene playing in their head right now?
The pitfalls of privacy invasion
Now, it’s understandable why checking out personal social accounts is tempting. Professional accounts are highly selective in the information they share, and you don’t exactly get a sense of whether your candidates are racist Neo-Nazis or sadistic sociopaths from their LinkedIn profiles. Plus, it’s not likely that a candidate is just going to come out and tell you that they swear like a sailor and have daily inclinations to rant about the world and all of its inhabitants.
But you can’t poke and pry into their personal lives.
Why? Well, firstly, we all have a right to privacy. Things that candidates post on their non-professional social channels were intended for their friends and family – they don’t pertain to things that you have any right to research. So what if the candidate has ten cats as their cover picture? And what’s it got to do with potential employers if they wrote an embarrassing status whilst drunk on a night out one time? (Let’s be honest, we’ve all done it!) If it’s not information specific to that job, it’s not a recruiter’s business.
Secondly, it’s potentially illegal. From looking at personal accounts, you could learn about the candidate’s age, religion, ethnicity, marriage status, etc., etc., etc. In short, you could be learning about things that could accelerate into discrimination lawsuits. Taking screening too far could get very messy indeed.
And lastly (although this list could be extended), let’s not forget that personal social media posts can very easily be taken out of context. If you don’t know the candidate, you don’t know whether the controversial update they’ve written is dripping in irony or if it’s meant in full seriousness. You don’t know whether they were just having a horrifically bad day when they wrote that raging rant or whether their inappropriate comment was in fact a ‘frape’ by a friend playing a prank. You can’t make hiring decisions based on invasive social media assumptions.
Talk, don’t stalk
It’s natural that you want to find out as much about your candidate as possible. And that’s why you should stop stalking and start talking.
Distinguish between private and professional social media platforms. Stop using social media to stalk candidates and search for their personal information. Seek out information about the specific job instead. Speak to the candidate, ask behavioural interview questions and get digging deeper. You can only find out the candidate’s suitability for the role by having those all-important conversations, not by clicking through their selfies.
Hey, your candidate might turn out to be a raging lunatic. But at least find that out directly rather than through guesswork from their personal social media updates.
After all, we all know that one person who’s an annoying idiot on Facebook but a great (and successful) person in real life. Think of that person the next time you’re tempted to do some personal social staking and resist the urge.