Social media continues to impact and change the world we live in. According to a recent survey from Statista, a majority of Americans – around 73 percent – now have some form of social media profile. The figure represents a 6 percent increase from 2014. And social media is no longer employed exclusively for personal socializing: The platforms have moved into the world of business, with organizations harnessing social networks for marketing purposes, as well as for hiring and screening. Certainly, it has become increasingly common for businesses to use social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to not only search for candidates and promote job openings, but also to screen the professional and personal backgrounds of potential new hires.
New SHRM survey investigates social media and talent acquisition
Keen to garner a more comprehensive understanding about the prevalence of social media recruitment and screening in the business world, the Society For Human Resource Management recently surveyed a number of human resources executives and questioned them about their utilization of social media for talent acquisition and screening. Researchers found that 84 percent of surveyed HR executives now use social media to recruit new candidates; Additionally, 9 percent of scrutinized executives intend to implement the practice in the near future. Interestingly, the survey uncovered that a primary reason that employers use social media is to search for qualified candidates that aren’t necessarily looking for a new job – they are referred to as “passive job candidates.” Indeed, 82 percent of HR professionals elaborated that head-hunting for talent is the most significant reason why they employ sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. The study found that brand marketing is another notable motivating factor for social media use, with 77 percent of surveyed HR executives using social platforms to increase brand recognition.
“84% of employers use social media to recruit new candidates.”
In terms of employing online sites to screen the personal and professional background of potential candidates, that practice has also grown since SHRM conducted their last survey about the issue in 2013. Researchers discovered that some 43 percent of organizations use the Internet – from general searches and social media screening – to investigate potential new hires, and 36 percent of the HR teams had decided not to hire a candidate due to concerning information discovered about her online.
Ethical concerns about social media screening remain
Despite the increase in the practice of screening candidates online, less than half of surveyed employers actually admitted to doing it. The reasoning for this is surely because there are still ethical concerns about whether it is appropriate for organizations to investigate potential new hires on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Screening can reveal information that can help HR teams avoid making a bad hire – for example, it could reveal that a new hire has committed a crime, or engaged in racist or sexist behavior. It becomes ethically problematic, however, when one considers that social media sites such as Facebook are designed for personal use and connecting with friends and family. Furthermore, HR Zone argued that questions of free speech come into play: For example, when is it appropriate for an employer to disqualify a candidate based on her personal or political views?
Ethics aside, social media screening could also be legally problematic. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, discrimination based on characteristics such as age, race, gender and religion is against the law. A social media screening can reveal information about the aforementioned characteristics, and if a candidate discovers that she was vetted on social media, she could potentially have grounds to file a discrimination lawsuit if she believes she was unfairly targeted based on something like her age or race.
Survey also revealed a demand for smartphone apps
The recent survey from SHRM also found that job seekers would like more organizations to develop smartphone apps through which they can apply for jobs. Major professional social networks such as LinkedIn have already developed apps that make the job application process easier and more effective. The SHRM survey found that given the high demand by the general public for app-based job application portals, companies would likely reach a wider pool of applicants by embracing the technology.