Employing Social Media Best Practices

Employing Social Media Best Practices

Bill Glenn, Vice President, Marketing and Alliances
TalentWise • serena@groupsjr.com
You can watch the TalentWise social media screening webcast to learn more.

With more than 800 million people on Facebook alone, there is no question that social networking is gaining in popularity at an unprecedented pace and playing an increasingly important role in how people communicate today. Recently, leading employment screening solution provider TalentWise and Taleo Business Edition put together a Taleo Business Edition Summary Report titled Social Network Recruiting Compliance. The report takes an in-depth look at how social networking has paved the way for a new generation of employment recruiting and what that means for employers moving forward.

The Situation

As more people interact on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and numerous others, online networks have evolved into powerful recruiting tools for human resources professionals. According to a survey conducted by executive search firm ExecuNet, a striking 77 percent of respondents indicated that they use the web for screening potential job candidates.

Social networks offer a candid glimpse at how job candidates act outside their professional lives. There is no doubt it makes sense for HR, staffing, and recruiting practitioners to leverage all publicly available information about candidates to make critical hiring decisions, but organizations can easily get themselves into legal hot water if these sites are used inappropriately.

At the recent SHRM Annual Conference, workplace attorney, Jonathan Segal, spoke on the topic, suggesting that social networking sites can be an important part of the background check. He pointed out that in the final stages of the hiring process it can be worthwhile to get a sense of a candidate’s personality in order to minimize risk should inappropriate behavior surface. It is important for industry practitioners to understand the impact social networking can have on the hiring process to better navigate the online minefield and mitigate risk.

Taking the Right Steps

Social networks have introduced people’s offline lives to the online world and in doing so have melded professional and personal information into a publicly accessible digital profile. Checking out a potential employee’s Facebook page or following him or her on Twitter may offer an enticing window into a candidate’s personality for recruiting and staffing professions, but knowing what information presented on social networking sites is job-relevant can help prevent costly legal entanglements with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Prior to using social networking sites as a component of the employment screening process, companies should always seek advice from their legal counsel. Of paramount importance is the accuracy of information found on these sites and the relevance of this information to job performance, both of which are critical to avoiding discrimination and negligent hiring lawsuits that could cost thousands, or even millions of dollars. For example, social networks may provide insight into information about religious preference, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and age, which may not otherwise be gleaned from a traditional job application. Keeping detailed records that demonstrate that hiring decisions were based on consistent, objective, and job-relevant screening practices can help prove that discrimination was not a factor in the event hiring decisions are called into question.

Companies that go the extra mile to adhere to the same standards set forth by the FCRA will ultimately be in a better position to make their case for using social networking during the recruiting process. When interviewing or engaging an applicant, there is nothing wrong with being upfront about the information that will be searched as part of the screening process. Using social networks is not always necessary for the job screening process, and there may be alternative measures that produce better results. For example, if drug use is a concern, there are well established approaches to drug screening that pose no legal risk and provide extremely accurate results.

In addition to serving as screening tools, social networks provide access to a passive group of job candidates that is often very attractive to human resource professionals. While social networks can be a key component of the recruiting process, they should not be the sole means for sourcing candidates. The labor pool available through social networking sites does not reflect the demographics of the general population, so sourcing candidates through these sites alone could be deemed as having a disparate impact. Social networking combined with employee referral programs and a traditional job board or two, for example, can help widen your employment opportunities to all classes of society.

Action Steps

When discipline and common sense are exercised, social networks can give recruiters a competitive advantage. Start out on the right foot by developing a formal policy around the proper use of social networking sites for your company, and publicize it. Beyond sourcing and screening candidates, social networking sites can be used in myriad ways across your organization, such as product development collaboration, customer forums, and promotional vehicles for your offerings. Despite the growing popularity of these sites, most employees are still unclear about how to use them properly. HR can play a leading role with not only setting a social networking policy that is clear and actionable, but also communicating the policy across the organization to ensure greater compliance and further mitigate risk.

Social networking is here to stay but just as job seekers must be cautious of their online footprint, HR professionals must understand how and when to use this valuable information. You can watch the TalentWise social media screening webcast to learn more.