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Should recruiters use social media for background checks?

A recruiter is trying to fill a job requisition and thinks she has found the perfect candidate. The recruiter is ready to make the job offer but decides to check some social media sites as a further background check on the applicant. On Facebook the candidate has posted that he only plans to stay in the geographic area for a year, and will then be moving on to another location. Should the recruiter contact the candidate and confront him? Should the applicant be removed from contention? Or should the recruiter move forward with the hire?

This was a real-life situation raised at the IDGA HR for Defense Summit yesterday. One participant thought it was inappropriate to use the information, while another pointed out that the individual had posted the information on a social media site. One more reminder to check your Facebook privacy settings!

Here’s Raghav Singh’s take on the issue in a recent blog post about using social media for background checks. And a Microsoft survey reporting 70% of recruiters have rejected a candidate based on online reputational information.

So what happened to the candidate in question moving to another area? He was removed from consideration for the position. What do you think the recruiter should have done and why?

Views: 60

Tags: communications, tech


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Comment by Vlad Malik on August 25, 2010 at 4:46pm
This NY Times article may be of interest to you:

"As part of the draft of a law governing workplace privacy, the German government on Wednesday proposed new restrictions on employers’ use of Facebook profiles when recruiting..."
Comment by Kathleen Smith on August 4, 2010 at 4:47pm
thanks for the really great discussion points. I think that we will see this continually change over the coming months and years as job seekers learn better how to market themselves and employers learn better how to use social media mining for their recruiting.
Comment by Vlad Malik on August 2, 2010 at 6:59pm
The recruiter should have contacted the candidate and asked for clarification.

The problem with getting information surreptitiously behind people's backs is that it relies on subjective and unverifiable interpretations and assumptions. In this case, is the info out of date? Is the person even serious? Do you know the background behind their decisions and statements? Do you know who that statement or information was intended for and how that affects how it is worded? What are the nuances and unstated exceptions in the person's plans?

Human beings are an array of contradictions both apparent and real. Any statement we make is just a slice of our minds. How we should interpret it depends on what exactly we say, where, when, to whom, why, as well as on our mood, to what degree we mean it, and on how it is actually reflected in our behaviour. You might say it's still better to know, because it does say at least "something". The point I want to make is that this "something" is not much use if it's illusory, and sometimes you make a better decision if you know less (which research on decision making has repeatedly demonstrated). Add to this the fact that we can change our minds about anything at any time. I realize that people don't like relativism of this sort, because the alternative is simpler, but what is the point of conclusions that are likely no better than chance?

Besides, in the process of trying to bypass the uncertainties inherent in life, we may unwittingly thwart positive outcomes. I might plan to leave the city to do a degree, for instance, but at the last minute decide to stay where I am, eventually decide to do a completely different degree, and, without really planning it, stay at the position for years. I may be considering going on leave, but who knows whether I will? It's best to keep life's complexities out of the hiring process. I think unstructured conversation during interview (often rendered impossible by the strict interviewing guidelines), samples of past work (rarely asked for), tests (often not very pertinent to the position), and essays (harder to evaluate systematically) are still more reliable methods of hiring. Besides, we ultimately value more how easy someone is to work with over hard skills, but you never know how you will work with someone until you work with them. There is no shortcut for that.

As to the question of whether information on the internet is truly public and therefore up for grabs, I posted my thoughts in a separate blog: Internet: defining privacy in a public space
Comment by Tricia on August 2, 2010 at 1:59pm
Comment by Adriel Hampton on July 29, 2010 at 4:28pm
I'm sure third-party recruiters operate in a much different playing field, but for gov't HR, this is an area where consistent policy is definitely needed.

Recruiting and Vetting Job Candidates Using Social Tools

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