With emergence of the internet, online recruitment has escalated in the last decade. Furthermore, the advent of social media networking sites (SNSs) has greatly distorted traditional processes of recruitment as employers utilize these popular sites to conduct background checks for potential candidates.
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Motivated by an opportunity to cut recruitment costs, some employers are relying heavily on popular sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to fill job openings. Correspondingly, job candidates have also found an easy opportunity to connect with potential employers, thus transcending the difficulties associated with conventional modes of job placement.
However, this emerging trend has attracted various controversies centered on ethical, legal and privacy issues. Consequently, employers find themselves in a dilemma trying to decide whether to use SNSs in spite of the looming possibility of myriad law suits arising from this hiring practice. Against this backdrop, this essay will explore this emerging trend plus controversies therein.
Since their inception, social media sites have grown both in popularity and numbers. This is because they have provided a multitude of alternatives through which friends remain connected regardless of their spatial distance. According to Parry and Wilson (655), most people in the world today especially the millennial generation have memberships access to at least one of the available social networking sites.
Recent statistics has ranked MySpace as the leading social networking site with subscribers estimated at 110 million, closely followed by Facebook with around 70 million subscribers. However, while the above sites are often used for social purposes, LinkedIn is gaining popularity as the networking site that brings professionals together (Searle 340).
Besides these three sites are many others, each with its own subscriber base, but the bottom line is that, these sites provide an effective platform upon which employers can conduct background checks about potential job applicants (Doherty 12).
SNSs allow users to share a great deal of personal information on the internet as they connect with known and unknown friends. For instance, twitter enable users to post short messages (maximum 140 characters) commonly known as tweets, whereas full fledged social network websites like Google, Buzz, Facebook, MySpace and so on allows users to post extensive messages including photos and videos, thus allowing their friends to comment on this posts (Doherty, 13).
Interestingly, most of these posts can also be viewed by outsiders especially when users forget to activate their profile privacy settings that blocks outsiders from viewing their personal information. Searle (339) underscores that SNSs are quite revealing as users have a tendency to post even the most intimate facts about themselves such as age, location, personal thoughts, intimate pictures and their relationship status.
The latter author adds that, most of these users post such sensitive information oblivious of who might be reviewing their profiles, and this ignorance has often cost some potential job seekers a golden opportunity either because of something they or their friends wrote on their SNSs profiles.
A generation ago, human resources managers had have to be contented with whatever job information they obtained from job applicants either during an actual interview or via cover letters and curriculum vitaes. However, with the advent of SNSs, human resources managers have learnt how to utilize these sites to garner more information about a potential candidate which would have taken eternity previously (Kluempe & Rosen 577).
Recent statistics have indicated that most these mangers are actively reading potential job candidates profile’s and most confessed using this information to decide whether to hire a particular candidate. A recent survey in 2009 by Careerbuilder.com indicated that the trend of human resources managers who are actively reading candidates SNSs profiles rose from 22% in 2008 to 45% in 2009. The report also approximated that around 11% managers were also considering adopting a similar hiring process.
Moreover, the most visited sites were reported as; Facebook 29%, LinkedIn 21%, MySpace 21%, blogs 11% and twitter 7%. Most importantly, the report cited that over 17% managers did not consider snooping into a candidate’s profile to be a violation of privacy (Kluempe & Rosen 570). Contrastingly job seekers are against this trend because they perceive it as a violation of their privacy as shown in the figure below.
Figure 1: should social networking sites should be used to screen job candidates?
According to van Birgelen, Wetzels and van Dolen (362), SNSs provides a fertile platform where employers can hunt for the most suitable candidates. Over the years, human resource managers have had to deal with the problem of employee turnover, which is often too costly to organizations.
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Correspondingly, high employee turnover can be blamed to wrong decisions made during selection. Against this backdrop, present day managers are not taking any chances during screening and recruitment processes. Research has shown that one out of five employers is turning to social networking sites to conduct thorough background checks for potential candidates (Doherty 13).
The idea behind this escalating trend is that, employers are using candidate’s information from SNSs to make informed choices while recruiting new employees in an attempt to avoid employee turnover (Kluempe & Rosen 577). For instance, an individual who badmouth his present or previous employer through the SNSs is unlikely to be hired by a potential employer as compared to a candidate whose profile portray enthusiasm towards his/her employer.
Secondly, with the cost of recruiting and hiring new employee’s increasing every day, human resources managers have to ensure that employees’ turnover remain at a minimum. To achieve this objective, human resources managers have been compelled with a duty to conduct thorough background checks to determine whether potential candidates are actually whom they confess to be.
Apparently, SNSs provide employers with crucial information that may otherwise remain unknown. Consequently, most managers have confessed that they utilized this information to make hiring decisions (Doherty 15).
As cited above, SNSs are beneficial to employers for numerous reasons. However, before trending on this shaky ground, human resource managers ought to consider the risks involved. To begin with, although SNSs have become extremely popular, employers ought to understand that adopting these social networks exclusively might attract discrimination issues.
Doherty (13) advises that, employers who entirely depend on social networks risk being accused of discrimination and missing out on great talent because not everyone have embraced this platform. Moreover, the fact that social media is more of a social tool than a professional tool, the distinction between these two entities might be quite elusive and sometimes hiring decisions might be based on wrong interpretation of social information (Parry & Wilson 660).
For instance, a candidate might portray negativity towards family setup, but end up being a reliable employee, thus if an employer locks out such a candidate then the whole essence of cost effectiveness is lost. Similarly, social networks are not fool proof and employers might end up attracting wrong candidates for the job.
Some employers are not just snooping into candidates’ profiles, but they are also posting job vacancies in these sites. However, the suitability of the networking site also determines whether the employer will get the most suitable candidates for the job (van Birgelen, Wetzels & van Dolen 340).
In a nutshell, employers’ use of social networking sites for recruiting and screening job candidates is gaining popularity each dawning day. However, in spite of the myriad benefits associated with this escalating trend, some considerations ought to be addressed before embracing this hiring practice.
Most importantly, employers ought to understand the legal, ethical and privacy implications of probing applicants’ social networking sites profile(s) without their consent. Furthermore by adopting this method exclusively, employers’ risk losing out on some great talent not forgetting that SNSs are not entirely factual.
Doherty, Richard. “Getting social with recruitment.” Strategic review 9.6 (2010):11-15. Print.
Kluempe, Donald H. & Peter A. Rosen. “Future employment selection methods: evaluating social networking web sites.” Journal of Managerial Psychology 24. 6 (2009): 567 – 580. Print.
Parry, Emma & Hugh, Wilson. “Factors influencing the adoption of online recruitment.” Personnel Review 38.6 (2009):655-673. Print.
Searle , Rosalind H.. “New technology: the potential impact of surveillance techniques in recruitment practices.” Personnel Review 35.3 (2006): 336 – 351. Print.
van Birgelen, Marcel J.H. , Martin G.M. Wetzels & Willemijn M. van Dolen. “Effectiveness of corporate employment web sites: How content and form influence intentions to apply.” International Journal of Manpower 29.8 (2008):731 – 751. Print.