By adaptive - September 2nd, 2014

The use of social media networks to aid recruiting continues to expand, but how should corporations ensure they use these networks legally and ethically?

Finding the right people for your corporation has always been vital. Businesses know that the people working in their organisations represent some of the most important capital their enterprises can leverage.

Locating and assessing potential new recruits is increasingly using social media networks. It’s critical though to use these resources legally and ethically to ensure your corporation now only locates the people it needs, but doesn’t place your business at any legal risk.

According to their latest survey, Jobvite reveal that 94% of recruiters plan to use social media with 78% having already used these networks. “This year’s results delve into how recruiters are leveraging social recruiting in addition to whether or not they are using it,” the report concludes. “Much like marketers, recruiters use social networks as part of a multi-channel strategy to find leads and nurture them to hire. Just as the days of ‘rented attention’ and ‘one size fits all’ campaigns are over in the marketing and advertising worlds, recruiters now focus on building their own talent pool and appealing to candidates’ individual preferences.”


It is now irresistible to use social media networks when moving through the recruiting process. The ability to gain what was hitherto unavailable insight into potential candidates makes their social media profiles a mine of information. However, as Prithvi Shergill, chief human resources officer at HCL Technologies explains, utilising social media networks must be just one component of a wider integrated approach to recruitment:

“Social tools help to strengthen brand perception by communicating core values to a wider audience in channels they appreciate. Social media also gives employers the opportunity to directly engage with potential candidates. Slowly but surely social media is changing how employers approach recruitment. However, even though social media has become an important part of recruitment, is does not fully replace traditional recruitment methods but rather supports them.”

Adam Gordon, managing director of Social Media Search, a Norman Broadbent Plc company that helps clients recruit quickly and inexpensively using social channels also comments: “Although many large employers won’t publicly admit to reviewing the personal social media profiles of prospective employees, almost all do. As a result, individuals should expect to be held responsible for their online presence. After all, your profile reflects on who you are as a person and the types of decisions you make. This is fair for employers to know. Plus, it also helps employers identify inconsistencies between data on candidates’ CV and what is publically available about them online.”

Careful recruitment

Clearly the use of social media as a recruitment tool needs to be approached with care. A research paper issued by ACAS concluded with this advice:

Consider the potential issues surrounding the use of social media.

While it is advisable for organisations to have in place a policy on employee conduct and social media, it is less clear whether there needs to be a specific policy to cover social media during recruitment, largely as this is a fast-moving world and the policy could quickly become out of date. Nevertheless, it is advisable to consider potential legal issues, particularly those surrounding data protection and privacy, even if these have not as yet been an issue to contend with. Social networking considerations could, for example, potentially be added to standard recruitment policies.

Seek to verify information on applicants’ social network sites through other means.

If employers do access potential employees’ social network sites, it should be borne in mind that the information there may not be accurate – at the least, it may be a site created by the applicant for job application purposes. If employers do decide to access potential employees’ social network sites, it is advisable to inform individuals beforehand and to treat all individuals in the same way. It is also advisable to consider data protection and privacy issues beforehand.

Do not over-invest in social media tools.

It is wise to adopt a fairly cautious approach in terms of investment in social media tools, as it is difficult to predict which tools will become popular and which will become obsolete. Close monitoring of trends is advisable. Social networking tools cannot entirely replace face-to-face contact during the recruitment process.

Use social media tools as part of a wider recruitment strategy.

In order to ensure that the initial search for applicants is conducted as widely as possible, it is recommended that social network sites should be used in conjunction with other, more traditional, forms of recruitment. This will ensure that candidates who are less comfortable with or lack access to social media are not excluded.

Provide training and information for those involved in using social network sites for recruitment.

Employers are advised to provide relevant training and information for managers that are involved in social network sites for recruitment purposes. In particular, it is important to ensure that all information gleaned about candidates is accurate, and that information is handled in a responsible way.

Keep social network sites activity for recruitment simple and secure.

In order to ensure that applicants are not put off by online recruitment, employers may want to focus on making the process as simple as possible and highlight the security of applicants’ data and information.

Do not lose control of the security of social network sites.

It is easy for organisations to lose control of media such as Twitter – it is possible for individual employees to hold access codes that no other company representative has. It is therefore advisable to put into place protocols relating to passwords and accounts so that individual employees are not the sole guardians of security information.

Social vacancies

Logan Naidu is founder and Chief Executive of Dartmouth Partners, a boutique recruitment consultancy placing rising stars and future leaders into positions within the financial services, consultancy and corporate sectors. He has extensive experience across financial services, having worked at JP Morgan and PWC, before co-founding The Cornell Partnership.

Logan Naidu

Is the use of social media an essential component of recruitment?

I wouldn’t say it is essential, but Twitter and LinkedIn are important. From an employer’s perspective, they should be aware that most candidates have become quite savvy to the fact that prospective employers might check their Facebook profile at any stage during the recruitment process, and hence keep their page relatively private.


In your view, should business owners use the personal social media profiles of prospective employees in their recruitment process? Is this ethical practice?

I don’t think it is unethical, and it can give business owners another perspective of a potential employee. What you are trying to do when interviewing someone is learn as much information about them as possible, but you only hear what the candidate wants to tell you, the detail about them that they are willing to reveal. So, using the Internet and finding out things about the candidate that they might not have told you in the interview is a useful tool to be able to refer to.


Are there any pitfalls business owners should watch out for when using social media as part of their recruiting processes?

It is possible to sometimes get candidates mixed up, and to also misinterpret occurrences from someone’s distant past. An extreme case that I recall was a client finding out about a candidate’s past drug use and involvement in a Hong Kong triad. When you actually read into the detail of it, it was all in his past and he had become a Christian, talking about how his life had been changed as a result of that. I think the client was so spooked by what they had read that they decided to pull their job offer. I think that was a mistake because the individual in question is now a director at a FTSE 100 company.


How can business owners ensure that discrimination is avoided if they do use social media as part of their recruitment process?

It’s very hard to bring these issues up with the candidate during the interview process, but also difficult not to be presumptuous based on their social media channels. Naturally, you are going to form a view of the individual based on limited information, but it is important to give people the right to apply in the first instance.

There is much more to the recruitment process than viewing social media profiles, and candidates should ultimately be judged on how they perform in interviews and assessments, and their willingness to be part of your business. While social media can give you an insight into the candidate in an unprofessional environment, a certain amount of discretion can go a long way towards helping to mould a future leader.


Using social media networks as part of your corporation’s recruitment process is now unavoidable. Kate Russell MD of Russell HR Consulting concludes: “All recruiting managers want to find out as much as they can about prospective applicants. The more relevant data you have, the better able you are to make an accurate decision. The problem arises if you acquire data that isn’t relevant or causes you to make judgements about the individual, which is irrelevant to whether or not they are a good candidate. If you look at Facebook pages there can be far too much information, which reveals protected characteristics (age, gender, religion, sexual orientation etc.).”

Care then must be taken at each step of the recruitment process to ensure your corporation avoids any legal issues surrounding discrimination, but also avoids potential negative comments placed online by unsuccessful candidates. Where social media is concerned a clearly defined policy must be created and adhered to when used for any recruitment purposes.

Image Source: Freedigitalphotos

Next Reads

The Social Media for Customer Service Summit 2014

November 2014, New York

The Social Media for Customer Service Summit is your one-stop-shop for all the latest social media insight and best practice. It gives you a 360 degree look into building, operationalizing and initiating a successful social media strategy at your company

Brochure Programme
comments powered by Disqus