There Are Dangers to Heed when HR Recruits with Social Media

Social media has certainly gained a foothold in popular culture, with Facebook reporting over 500 million users worldwide. Surveys show that social media is also growing in use among HR professionals and organizations, specifically for recruiting candidates.

A recent article in HR Executive magazine showed that 73% of HR professionals polled use social media for recruiting. Although recruiting appears to be a great application for social media, this unique tool introduces new complexity, even legal risks, to compliance with hiring practices that need to be explored.

There are several ways to use social media, but there is potential fallout that might be overlooked in our fast-paced recruiting world. You have to be careful about what you might uncover using social media.

Also, HR is still accountable for documentation and reporting of recruiting efforts, and social media makes this more challenging. Some organizations looking for ways to manage documentation and data associated are finding hope with enterprise content management (ECM).

As with any new application of technology, it is difficult to understand all the consequences. Below are a few things to consider when implementing social recruiting at your organization.

A Bias Against Bias

Although social media has become an Internet phenomenon, you need to remember that some candidates will not have access to these sites and therefore may claim that they were unfairly discriminated against in the recruiting process. Can an HR recruiter demonstrate every touch point they had and a lack of bias against other candidates who don’t have a Facebook or a LinkedIn profile?

Tracking Talent

Contact points with candidates are getting more difficult to track. How, for example, do you document a chat with a prospective employee on LinkedIn or Facebook? Is there a sufficient audit trail for these chats? HR professionals would be wise to use e-mail instead of instant messaging so they can track when a message was received and from whom.

Finding Too Much

There is also a concern about the kind of information you might find on social networking sites.

The good news? There is a lot of good information out there that will help you get to know your candidates before they ever interview or even apply.

The bad news? There is a lot of information out there that will allow you to know your candidates before they interview or apply.

HR can’t ask about religious affiliations, children, age, or other protected information, but one trip to Facebook could tell all of that and more. How will your organization prove that candidate selection was not based on information gathered through social media that an HR recruiter or hiring manager would not normally be able to ask for or access?

A white paper I read recently mentioned that what you know can hurt you. A recruiter should stay away from sites that provide more data than they need to make a hiring decision to eliminate or greatly reduce the risk of a discrimination lawsuit.

Social Recruiting Policy

A company policy for social recruiting is critical.

This policy should not only detail what is permissible, but also the timing for conducting a search using social media. If this search is performed too early in the process, it could be grounds for a discrimination suit. Performing these checks after an interview provides some protection for the employer because the decision can be based on information gathered from this initial meeting.

The policy should also contain specific details about who in the organization should handle this search in the recruiting process.

An April 2011 article in HR Magazine, a publication of the Society for Human Resource Management, recommends allowing only HR professionals to access social media and prohibiting hiring managers from obtaining information in this manner. This creates consistency in what is being accessed and fewer points for bias throughout the organization.

Using ECM

Some organizations are using enterprise content management (ECM) to help them capture and manage these corporate policies, as well as communications, associated with social recruiting.

Easily capturing emails and screen prints from sites visited in a central ECM repository can provide the necessary documentation for an audit of the information gathered in the recruiting process. 

Some companies are creating interview documentation that can be used across the organization.

Documenting questions asked and responses in a template provides structure to the interview process and these templates can be easily accessed from an employee portal. Once complete, these documents can be stored in an ECM system for reporting and retrieval to ensure that decisions are being based on the right information.

What Makes Sense?

Some experts are suggesting that organizations stay out of social media.

New technology, such as social media, can be dangerous when we don’t understand the pitfalls or problems that may arise down the road.

However, there are still great uses for social media in the workplace. Building a company brand is critical and social media provides the perfect medium for introducing your company to potential candidates and their network. You want to attract the right talent and help them get to know your company and what you are about before they ever apply.

Although it is great to give potential employees as much information as possible, organizations should be cautious when collecting details about a candidate in the hiring process, and document everything they do.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of In Context magazine. Reprinted with permission from LRP. [link]