The 2012 controversy about employers screening job candidates by asking for their Facebook passwords has many employers wondering: should social media and online information be used in the hiring process and to what extent?
Most recruiting experts agree that social media can be used to effectively source and identify great talent. In fact, there is a good bit of evidence which shows that social media is a successful sourcing strategy for finding talent, especially passive candidates. Social media is quickly replacing other traditional recruitment methods such as postings and advertisements.
The main issue with social media is not in using it to find and source talent when recruiting, but rather when social media platforms like Facebook and other online information are used to assess and evaluate job candidates. While the goal should always be to eliminate the risk of a bad hire and hire a top performer, here are a few important reasons why using social media and other online information to evaluate job candidates poses problems.
1. There is limited research support for social media as a selection practice.
There is not enough conclusive and research-based evidence that supports social media as a predictor of future job performance and fit or as an effective hiring method. Though a 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found a strong correlation between ratings of Facebook profiles and actual performance ratings of employees, this research must be replicated in order to make a stronger case for social media usage in the hiring and selection process.
2. Social media is not yet considered a valid or reliable hiring practice.
All hiring assessments and evaluation techniques should be valid and reliable and social media has yet to be tested against the reliability and validity standards that other hiring methods have endured, such as validated ability and personality assessments, structured or behavioral interviews, and work samples. As a result, it's unclear as to whether social media is a sound hiring practice.
3. Hiring based on information attained via social media poses legal concerns.
Use of social media for selection also poses legal concerns because social networking sites contain so much information that employers are prohibited from using to make employment decisions. For example, social media can expose an individual's race, gender, age, and national origin through pictures, postings, and biographical information. These characteristics are protected from discrimination under law.
Additionally, the courts have yet to clarify their stance on the usage of social media for selection. Until more case law offers guidance on the issue, it will be unclear as to whether social media is an appropriate and legal selection practice.
4. Using social media can lead to decisions based on irrelevant hiring criteria.
A final issue with using social media in the hiring and selection process is that it may not provide the necessary information to evaluate candidates objectively and consistently. Social media often contains a great deal of personal and irrelevant information that causes employers to make judgments about individuals, but not necessarily based on actual hiring criteria (skills, qualifications, experiences, culture fit, etc.).
For example, a posting on Facebook by a job candidate has little relevance to whether an employee can actually do the requirements of the job. Employers can use this information to screen out hires even when it is not job-related. When employers make decisions about candidates based on criteria that is not job-related or based on job requirements, they are making biased selection decisions.
Also note that the three most common reasons new-hires fail are poor culture or personality fit, poor job fit or an inability to do the work, and lack of interest or motivation to do the job. Social media tells employers very little about candidates in these areas.
In conclusion, your organization should think twice before "googling" your next job candidate or asking them for their Facebook password to browse their profile. Not only do these practices expose your organization to legal risks, but they may ultimately not be effective in helping you select great talent. Our advice: stick to tried and true selection practices to maximize your probability of acquiring a great hire.
Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.
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