There’s a lot of “buzz” these days about how social media is affecting the hiring process.
Managers need to be cautious about considering information from social media in the hiring process, as federal law prohibits organizations from basing employment decisions on protected characteristics which may be revealed, such as:
- religious beliefs
- sexual orientation
- marital status
- parenting status
Even when managers only view pages that are publicly available, there are serious questions about whether it is legal for managers to consider this information when making employment decisions. When you review applicants’ social media profiles for the hiring process, your organization is vulnerable to charges that a candidate was not hired because of personal characteristics that are protected under federal law.
On its own, this is a good reason to refrain from taking a peek at an applicant’s Facebook page. But there is also reason to question whether information from social media profiles is even useful in determining who to hire. This was the subject of a study performed by researchers at several public and private universities, with support from Accenture.
The researchers had actual recruiters examine the Facebook profiles of college students who were graduating and applying for full-time jobs. The recruiters were asked to draw conclusions about the applicants’ knowledge, skills and overall suitability for the positions they were applying for. More conventional application materials — grades, resumes, etc. — were not given to the recruiters. A year later, the candidate evaluations created during the study were compared to performance reviews prepared by the successful applicants’ supervisors.
The results, published by the Journal of Management in December, showed no correlation between the Facebook-based ratings and the employee performance reviews. The study also found that information from Facebook was not especially predictive of job turnover rates.
In addition, the researchers reported that Facebook evaluations tended to favor female and white applicants. This is a significant problem as it can lead to the appearance of discrimination. After all, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll learn some details about applicants that federal law prohibits from being considered in employment decisions.
Once you have this information in hand, you may have a very hard time proving that it did not play a role in the decision making process. I suggest that you be very cautious about using information that appears on sites such as Facebook to make judgments about job applicants.
If your organization is going to use social media in the hiring process, policies must be in place to ensure that managers can prove that employment decisions are based solely on legitimate, job-related factors. And if you’re going to use social media in the hiring process, I suggest sticking to a site such as LinkedIn.