Social media’s role in recruitment unveiled

By Chris Lee

Research carried out by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) on behalf of employer relations body Acas has shed some light on the apparently growing use of social media within the UK human resources (HR) industry. The report aimed to understand how and why employers use social media tools for recruitment, at what points in the recruitment process and which tools they use.

In April 2013, the UK’s first youth police and crime commissioner, Paris Brown, resigned her newly-held position at Kent Police after her Twitter history attracted criticism.

Opportunities and threats

According to the report’s authors, the use of social media as a recruitment tool presents both opportunities and challenges for employers.

“Social media potentially offers speed, efficiency and the ability to target and attract specific, particularly apposite candidates in the recruitment process,” they write. “It can provide a useful additional source of information on potential job candidates, especially since some data (at the personal as well as the professional level) may not be generated for the purpose of recruitment, and therefore may provide candid supplementary information on the applicant. For candidates it potentially offers multiple sources of information about the employer and the possibility of contact with existing employees to gain a more realistic job preview. However, there are a number of issues that need to be considered.”

Despite the potential benefits of using social networks to employers and potential employees alike, the report’s authors also stressed that if applicants are turned down on the basis of inaccurate information, particularly if obtained without their consent, employers may be open to legal challenge.

They state: “Davison et al (2012) argue: ‘we believe that Internet screening for deviance or criminality could result in employee rights violations or possible lawsuits, if it were later determined that such information was relied upon erroneously’. Another issue is potential defamation of character via online postings from third parties: ‘defamation of character could be a problem if websites contain inaccurate and libellous information, which is a major legal concern with traditional background checks’ (Davison et al, 2012).”

What are the most popular recruitment tools?

The IES approached 400 HR professionals to establish how they used social networks in the recruitment process.

A sizable minority (38.4%) of those questioned did not use social media at all in the recruitment process, with a further 15.5% not currently using social media in the recruitment phase but plan to going forward.

Of those that did use social media as a way to source and assess candidates, LinkedIn was by far the most used (70.6%) followed by Facebook (52%) and Twitter (30.5%).

Monmouthshire County Council’s digital and social media manager explained how it doesn’t currently have a specific policy on using social media to recruit: “We wouldn’t want to over-prescribe procedure in a policy, as it would stop that experimental element in using social media. It seems silly to make too much of a strategy around how we recruit on social media, just because it’s new and it’s changing so quickly. Besides, it’s so embedded in what we do, that it’s just a business tool now – we don’t feel that we need to have specific departmental written strategies on using social media."

Candidates may be interested in New Media Knowledge’s interview with Me and My Web Shadow author, Antony Mayfield, covering how they can best protect themselves from giving potential employers a negative impression.

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