Risks to Recruiters in Candidate Social Media

Eurocom released the results of their Worldwide annual survey in March revealing some interesting trends and thoughts in the world of social media.  The research identified that worldwide, one in five technology firms rejected a job applicant because of social media.  However, data made available by BullHorn Reach suggested that in North America 91% of hiring managers screen potential candidates, using a combination of LinkedIn (48%), Twitter (53%) and most commonly Facebook (76%) throughout the hiring process.  Of those screening, 69% did not hire a candidate due to what was discovered on a social media/online source.

In recent articles we read an increasing number of examples.  One article spoke of a worker who was on disability leave and posted pictures of her zip lining in Mexico on Facebook and lost her job.  While deception and fraud make for strong cases for dismissal, there is a mounting battle between people’s rights to express who they are during off-work hours and how they represent themselves and the company by what they share.

Two noteworthy examples for consideration.  The first is a recruitment firm that placed a star candidate.  The company announced the employees pending arrival and a curious co-worker wondered about the new hire and ‘googled’ them.  They discovered in an obscure article over ten years ago that the candidate was trialed for murder, found guilty of manslaughter and had since been acquitted.  The candidate lost the position.  While the history, with an acquittal, should have had no bearing on the placement, the power of social media was stronger than individual rights.

Second is the event of a health care worker who provides in-home care for the elderly and incapacitated, providing basic services such as grooming, washing, feeding and other basic needs.  Outside of work she enjoys and engages in posting pictures and video of a pornographic nature on sites that are publically accessible.  No laws are broken, but how does social online activity affect the moral value of the service and interaction with clients?

For hiring managers and organizations these situations become very difficult moral/legal dilemmas that challenge organizational policy and relations.  For recruiters the waters continue to be messy, not just in how we evaluate but in how we coach our candidates.  How far should we go in encouraging candidates to clean up their social media as we seek to represent them?  We want to at minimum enable our candidates by suggesting they have a professional online presence.  This approach is passive at best but getting any more aggressive can lead to consequences of privacy and rights.  For example, if we suggest that employers may look at their social media and not hire if they see pictures of the candidate ‘drinking with friends,’ and then the candidate is not hired there may be ground for recourse.  Why?  Because one cannot legally be rejected a candidate for this reason and an indication of this as the reason is a very slippery slope for hiring managers and recruiters as we directly or indirectly act as agents of the  candidates.

We know from research that inappropriate photos account for 11% of candidate rejections of those who have rejected after screening social media.  Inappropriate comments account for another 11%, 9% for content about drinking, 10% for comments on drug use, and the list goes on.  Some of the more legitimate reasons for candidate rejection such as discriminatory comments, poor communication, comments about previous employers, sharing confidential information, and lying about qualifications exist, however, legitimate does not mean legal.  Where does one draw the line and how strong and legal is the case by the hiring managers?

The data exists to help candidates and job seekers improve their chances at getting the job of their choice, the question is how much can be shared and disseminated to those searching without creating legal concerns for recruiters and hiring managers?  It is one thing for a job seeker to discover the facts, but to advise them may make recruiters accountable.  Tread cautiously is the best advice, and wherever possible, educate generally without advising specifically. It is up to you to determine what constitutes general and specific - or seek legal counsel.


Executrade – Your Recruitment Specialists



Views: 957

Comment by Sandra McCartt on May 7, 2012 at 2:04pm

I suggest to all candidates that they make their facebook profile private while they are involved in a job search.  I tell them that theirs may be just great but you never know when one of your friends or your old aunt Mable will post something that you would rather not have an employer review when they are considering you for employment. 


People are screaming about privacy in the same breath they are screaming about being able to flop their life out on the internet and not have anybody look at it.  Be smart.  Linkedin professional profile.  Facebook private and don't post weird stuff or rants on twitter while you are looking for a job.  You wouldn't post your picture of all your tats while you have on a speedo and a beer in your hand on the front page of the paper or write insane letters to the editor of the paper in the city where you want to work.  If you want privacy set the facebook private period.

It may not totally protect them from dumb stuff they have posted someplace but at least it doesn't slam something in somebody's face in the first two google results.

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on May 8, 2012 at 6:03pm

While I'm completely open-minded and about as non-judgemental as a person can be, I do realize others have far different sensibilities and levels of tolerance for what they deem appropriate.

Last time I checked, it is not possible to determine blood alcohol level from a photo, nor is it necessarily possible to gauge the exact date, time or circumstances of anything depicted in a photo. As long as someone is not clearly engaged in provable illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, I don't think anything else is relevant to the screening process. 

Adult drinking a beer - legal

Acting silly & having fun - legal

Posting opinions on topics (even if controversial) - legal

I agree with Sandra, that anyone using any social site should be aware of how to establish proper privacy settings about what, if anything, they wish to be viewed publicly. Likewise, know the difference between each site an it's audience. LI is generally intended for professional networking. Facebook tends to be mostly used for personal, friends and family and social sharing. Twitter seems to be anything goes depending on each person's preferences. All of the others -- too many to care! 

The part of this topic that constantly amazes me is the apparent lack of awareness that what goes on the internet stays on the internet. We all know this, just like we know cigarette smoking may cause unhealthy outcomes. So why does this issue continue to get so much attention as if that isn't plain old common sense by now. Most regular people shouldn't have much to worry about if they pay attention to that basic concept. 

The most scandalous image anyone might find on my fb page is me and some friends enjoying some of Napa's finest grape products. The horror!!! 

Comment by Darryl Moore on May 8, 2012 at 6:11pm

Kelly well stated. Amazingly the fact that you have an uncensored photo with a glass of Napa's finest might actually support that you are cultured, educated and articulate – if you were a candidate it may enhance your chances of attaining a position. A cup of Jack Daniels while wearing an ACDC shirt with Daisy Duke Shorts on may suggest something else. We are creatures of culture and we are all searching to match cultures of work, life, style, and so forth – this is why jury duty is near impossible to exist without biases.

Well stated comments and if only common sense were so common, our jobs would be far easier.

Comment by Kenneth Peck on May 16, 2012 at 4:22pm

Like this article because it points out the dangers for job seekers using social media to find a job, because the hiring source is using social media as a screening source not a hiring source.

But there is one more negative that every job seeker should know.  Social Media can make your background stale and over exposed and then the job seeker begins to look like those most wanted posters you see in the post office.


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