Companies are looking for ways of implementing popular technology to aid them in the employee selection process. One popular trend is to use social media sites (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) as a tool for attracting and researching potential candidates. A senior manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States reported that approximately 75% of recruiters across multiple industries are required by their firms to conduct online research of job candidates, and more than 70% of recruiters state that they have rejected candidates based on the material found on social media websites.[i] A study of 2,600 hiring managers conducted in the United States found that 45% of them searched social media sites for information on job applicants.[ii] Frequent updates to user privacy settings on social media platforms (especially on Facebook) have made gaining access to candidates’ personal information much easier for prospective employers. This ease of access and ubiquity of use on the part of recruiters makes an applicant’s ability to promote himself/herself well on social media “a new job hurdle.”[iii]
Besides posing potential problems for job applicants, searching a candidate’s social media profile presents organizations with potentially damaging consequences. First, much of the information uncovered by recruiters from looking at social media profiles is not job-related. For example, one’s age, hobbies, interests, affiliations, religious views, political leanings, and marital/relationship status all appear on one’s Facebook profile, but have very little to do with a person’s ability to perform most jobs. Using much of the above information for employee selection is considered illegal in most states.
Next, using Facebook and other social media sites to predict job performance doesn’t work. Last year, a group of industrial-organizational psychologists conducted a study in which they had staffing specialists and hiring managers from multiple organizations view and rate Facebook profiles of potential applicants to their respective organizations.[i] The ratings of these recruitment professionals were then compared to performance evaluations of each applicant completed by each applicant’s current supervisor to determine if there was a correlation between an applicant’s predicted and actual performance. The overall finding of this study was that recruiters’ ratings of applicants were not related to supervisors’ ratings of applicants and thus did not predict applicant job performance. What’s more, recruiters tended to prefer White females above all other subgroups, posing serious legal and ethical problems for organizations. Until additional research can be conducted on ways to effectively use social media in the selection process, organizations should discontinue using sites such as Facebook to search for information on job candidates.
[i] Seibert, S., Downes, P. E., & Christopher, J. 2012. Applicant reactions to online background checks: Welcome to a brave new world. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Boston.
Sinar, E. F., & Winter, J. 2012. Social media and selection: How on-line information helps and hurts your hiring process. DDIDirections, 1-9. Retrieved from http://www.imakenews.com/ddi/e_article002559717.cfm?x=b11,0
[ii] Stamper, C. (2010). Common mistakes companies make using social media tools in recruiting efforts. CMA Management, 84(2), 12-14.
[iii] Preston, J. (2011, July 20). Social media becomes a new job hurdle. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/technology/social-media-history-becomes-a-new-job-hurdle.html
[iv] Van Iddekinge, C.H., Lanivich, S.E., Roth, P.L., & Junco, E. (2016). Social media for selection? Validity and adverse impact potential of a Facebook-based assessment. Journal of Management, 42(7), 1811-1835.