Do (and Should) You Recruit Via Social Media?

When some of my friends are seeking new job opportunities, they post a call for help on Facebook. I’ve never done it myself, disliking the vulnerability of announcing to all my Facebook “friends” that I’m in need of a new job, but many others don’t have my hang-up.

According to SCORE, 94 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media for recruiting, and 73 percent of Millennials found their last job through social media. Platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn are great for getting the word out about job opportunities, but how do you also respect the candidate’s right for a personal life while you recruit? People use Facebook to share job search news and post job opportunities, but they also post personal photos and information in the same place. If your company recruits via social media, do you have policies on what you can and can’t use candidate social media pages for?

Is it the employment parallel of the “buyer beware” maxim, meaning Facebook users should be aware that if their pages are open to the public, there is a chance a recruiter from a company they have applied to will pick through all their photos and personal posts? In that case, the responsibility is solely on the end of the job candidate, with the company they have applied to taking advantage of the opportunity to snoop as deeply as it can into the candidate’s personal life.

What happens when you stumble onto information that you’re not legally allowed to ask about during job interviews, such as a job candidate who is in the early stages of pregnancy, has just moved to a home that would require a long commute to your office, or has a newly diagnosed medical condition? If you’re not allowed to ask about these issues during job interviews, is it ethical to seek out information in these areas on social media?

Respect for applicant and employee privacy could be made a part of your company’s official corporate standards. There’s an argument that whatever is open to the public on social media, that would indicate a potential problem, is fair game. However, there’s a counter to that argument in the applicant pre-screening process. The information given to recruiters and hiring managers during reference checks, and during job interviews, is all the relevant information you need to make a good decision. It’s all you need because it gives you information on how the person performed in her last job(s), which is the best indication of how she will perform in the job she applied for.

Past job performance, combined with references from one or more people who previously worked with the applicant, is a much better indication of the candidate’s potential than damning party photos on Facebook, or information that he belongs to a club or affinity group your executives would not approve of. There are rare exceptions, of course, such as a job candidate you find out is a member of a racist organization such as the Ku Klux Klan, but barring information like that, a job candidate with a great track record and two or three great interviews with your recruiters and hiring managers, is the best indication of a safe new hire.

I once heard of a company that encouraged recruiters not to hire applicants who recently lost a loved one because they would be too distracted to devote their full attention and energy to their new job. That’s discriminatory and misguided, and even short-sighted. Not everyone deals with grief and personal challenges the same way. Many of us actually power through those issues by focusing and working harder as a way of channeling negative energy into something positive, and many more are able to work at least equally well, even in the worst of circumstances. Adverse personal life challenges also sometimes help a person evolve in a way that benefits their job.

Many of us have experienced personal life complications and challenges that we were able to work through without it affecting our job performance. It would be a shame to pass over a potentially great addition to your company because you don’t like their Facebook status updates.

Does your company use social media to recruit and research job candidates? How do you use this medium, and what policies are in place to regulate your use of it?