Eurocom released the results of their Worldwide annual survey in March revealing some interesting trends and thoughts in the world of social media. The research identified that worldwide, one in five technology firms rejected a job applicant because of social media. However, data made available by BullHorn Reach suggested that in North America 91% of hiring managers screen potential candidates, using a combination of LinkedIn (48%), Twitter (53%) and most commonly Facebook (76%) throughout the hiring process. Of those screening, 69% did not hire a candidate due to what was discovered on a social media/online source.
In recent articles we read an increasing number of examples. One article spoke of a worker who was on disability leave and posted pictures of her zip lining in Mexico on Facebook and lost her job. While deception and fraud make for strong cases for dismissal, there is a mounting battle between people’s rights to express who they are during off-work hours and how they represent themselves and the company by what they share.
Two noteworthy examples for consideration. The first is a recruitment firm that placed a star candidate. The company announced the employees pending arrival and a curious co-worker wondered about the new hire and ‘googled’ them. They discovered in an obscure article over ten years ago that the candidate was trialed for murder, found guilty of manslaughter and had since been acquitted. The candidate lost the position. While the history, with an acquittal, should have had no bearing on the placement, the power of social media was stronger than individual rights.
Second is the event of a health care worker who provides in-home care for the elderly and incapacitated, providing basic services such as grooming, washing, feeding and other basic needs. Outside of work she enjoys and engages in posting pictures and video of a pornographic nature on sites that are publically accessible. No laws are broken, but how does social online activity affect the moral value of the service and interaction with clients?
For hiring managers and organizations these situations become very difficult moral/legal dilemmas that challenge organizational policy and relations. For recruiters the waters continue to be messy, not just in how we evaluate but in how we coach our candidates. How far should we go in encouraging candidates to clean up their social media as we seek to represent them? We want to at minimum enable our candidates by suggesting they have a professional online presence. This approach is passive at best but getting any more aggressive can lead to consequences of privacy and rights. For example, if we suggest that employers may look at their social media and not hire if they see pictures of the candidate ‘drinking with friends,’ and then the candidate is not hired there may be ground for recourse. Why? Because one cannot legally be rejected a candidate for this reason and an indication of this as the reason is a very slippery slope for hiring managers and recruiters as we directly or indirectly act as agents of the candidates.
We know from research that inappropriate photos account for 11% of candidate rejections of those who have rejected after screening social media. Inappropriate comments account for another 11%, 9% for content about drinking, 10% for comments on drug use, and the list goes on. Some of the more legitimate reasons for candidate rejection such as discriminatory comments, poor communication, comments about previous employers, sharing confidential information, and lying about qualifications exist, however, legitimate does not mean legal. Where does one draw the line and how strong and legal is the case by the hiring managers?
The data exists to help candidates and job seekers improve their chances at getting the job of their choice, the question is how much can be shared and disseminated to those searching without creating legal concerns for recruiters and hiring managers? It is one thing for a job seeker to discover the facts, but to advise them may make recruiters accountable. Tread cautiously is the best advice, and wherever possible, educate generally without advising specifically. It is up to you to determine what constitutes general and specific - or seek legal counsel.
Executrade – Your Recruitment Specialists