4 Disadvantages of Social Media Recruitment That Will Make You Reconsider How You Screen Candidates

Screening and recruiting employees on Facebook or LinkedIn? It may not really be worth it.

Written by Freddie Rohner, iHire
Women looking at social media on her phone

As social media has taken over much of daily life, its influence has extended beyond giving families and friends an easy way to stay in touch with one another. Fifteen years ago, recruiting employees on a social networking platform was unheard of. Nowadays, what’s important is not if but how companies use social media to recruit.

Should companies really be screening and recruiting employees via social media, though? Does it work? How do the advantages and disadvantages of social networking and recruiting compare?

 

Split image showing a professional looking individual and a drunk person

 

Social media profiles present unreliable and/or inconsistent representations of candidates

One of the biggest disadvantages of social media recruitment is that an individual’s profile often presents a highly sanitized version of their personality and life. One of the biggest arguments for relying on social media when recruiting employees is that it offers a free “background check,” but this check becomes fairly worthless if the candidate’s background has been scrubbed of any negative information.

At this point, most professionals have a basic understanding of how companies use social media to recruit, which means that the majority of candidates will have prepared themselves – and their social media profiles – for a recruiter to find them.

 

It’s hard to escape bias when using social media for recruitment

There are a number of different types of biases that can impact a hiring decision, and social media profiles create a perfect environment for favoritism and partiality. A single Facebook comment or LinkedIn post could color a recruiter’s entire perception of a candidate. The superficiality of a lot of social media profiles also lends itself to the development or reinforcement of stereotypes, which are hard to overcome and never an appropriate aspect of the hiring process.

The act of poring over a person’s social media pages will provide a more in-depth glimpse of their personality and background. However, it’s difficult to remain objective in the face of so many intimate details, many of which will be entirely unrelated to a candidate’s professional skills, expertise, or potential.

 

Recruiter entering a password to access the social media profile of a candidate

 

How companies use social media to recruit may be illegal

Along with the concerns regarding bias in social media recruitment is the legitimate potential for discrimination. Because of this, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers legal guidance to ensure social media and hiring practices comply with equal employment opportunity (EEO) and/or affirmative action guidelines:

  • Don’t ask for passwords: Several states have outlawed the practice of requesting an applicant or employee’s social media password. To be on the safe side, employers should only view content that is publicly available.
  • Let HR handle social media screening: To avoid potential liability, have an HR representative review a candidate’s social media presence rather than a hiring manager or supervisor. HR professionals are more likely to know what information can and cannot be considered.
  • Don’t use social media for initial screening decisions: Checking social media profiles prior to an interview exposes you to possible discrimination claims, so no matter how companies use social media to recruit, it should never be relied upon early in the hiring process.
  • Be consistent: If you choose to review the social media profile of one applicant then you must check every candidate’s social media presence.
  • Document your decision making: Make sure to take a screenshot or print out any information you come across on social media that impacts your hiring decisions. This will protect you in case the candidate deletes offending material after you have reviewed it.

 

Not all candidates are on social media

One final note to consider concerning social media and hiring practices is that not every professional has a profile on every platform. While Facebook continues to be a dominant force in social media, there are many individuals who are deleting their profiles because of the company’s practices or simply to detach themselves from social media entirely.

If your hiring organization is overly reliant on social media, you may be missing out on top talent. You shouldn’t use the absence of a social media presence to discount candidates that may be a great fit for your position.

 

When it comes to recruiting, a more holistic approach using job postings and resume search is still the best strategy to identify candidates. Save social media screening for further along in the process and don’t allow it to dominate your decision making.