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Social Media as a Human Resource Screening Tool, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

An integral part of human resource management is screening potential new employees for hire. Any organization is only as good as its employees; therefore, it is important that hiring managers recruit the best possible candidates. This is most efficiently done via the use of effective human resource screening tools.

Screening is defined by BusinessDictionary.com as “Evaluating a large number of subjects to identify those with a particular set of attributes or characteristics” (Screening, n.d.). The key words in this definition commonly considered by today’s employers are “attributes” and “characteristics.” With the highly competitive environment that exists in today’s job market, companies have more options when it comes to choosing candidates to fill their positions. With this in mind, no doubt companies place value on hiring employees who fit in well with their corporate cultures, and the more they know about a candidate’s background, personality and past behavior, the more likely they may be to consider that candidate for hire. One way employers are screening potential employees, that is increasing in popularity, is through the use of social media.

Progressive Hiring and Screening Practices

In today’s technological and interactive world, the Internet is a major player in the business market for both employers and potential employees. Many talented people are connected online and spend a lot of time online, particularly when searching for employment. Many people use social media accounts on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. Consequently, integrating social media to post available job positions is a smart move by progressive employers and companies. It is a good idea for companies to tap into the trend that many potentially talented employees have embraced and use sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter for recruiting, according to Tanyeri (2010).

Kubitz (2012) states social media sites are an excellent recruiting tool that allows employers the opportunity to tap into a pool of actively-looking candidates, as well as a pool of passive candidates with potentially compatible experience and talent for specific job positions. Additionally, social media site recruiting cuts down on recruiting ad costs because it’s free. Also, a company-branded profile on social media sites gives potential talent more information about the company and may play a role in a star candidate’s decision to want to join a company.

As reported by Cain, Scott, & Smith (2010), an example of an organization using social media to make a hiring decision is in the case of a pharmacy residency program study. This study examined the attitudes of the program directors’ about using social media for recruiting residents. The methodology used for the study was online questionnaires and 454 program directors participated in the study. Study findings indicated that more than half of the information obtained from potential residents’ social media profiles was derogatory. However, only 4 percent of the study participants actually used social media sites in the residency selection process, and 52 percent of these respondents stated the derogatory information obtained had no effect on their hiring decisions. The variation in opinions originated from the generation gaps of the study participants.

Potential Controversy

Brown & Vaughn (2011) reports that human resource professionals are turning to social networking sites to look for information on job applicants and screen for compatible candidates. This can give employers more detail into a candidate’s characteristics and personality tendencies. However, it is stated that there may be legal issues associated with this type of screening, on the part of the employer. This includes possible protected class information being viewed by the employer which could lead to discrimination. Social networking site profiles contain information such as pictures, personal posts, personal conversation threads, family information, demographic data, geographic data and other potentially protected information that can be viewed by a potential employer.

Consequently, there is a growing controversy regarding social networking sites being used as part of the hiring process for organizations and companies. When in the hiring process, a company’s human resources department reviews many resumes and applications, and also conducts numerous interviews to find the “right fit” for their companies. Most of the time, people can interview really well with potential employers, but how much can a potential employer tell about a person’s personality and traits from an in-person interview only? The key is reviewing a potential new employee’s social media profile to find out more about that person.

According to Davison, Maraist & Bing (2011), over the past couple of decades, the Internet has changed how human resource managers recruit for new employees, and online job postings and testing are now the norm. Mailing in hard copy resumes to a job posting is an obsolete practice that was time consuming.

However, today’s recruiting, hiring and firing practices can include the use of information obtained from candidates’ or employees’ social networking sites. Davison, Maraist & Bing (2011), states “their use for these purposes is clearly growing while research on these practices is lacking. Many questions about using these sites for HR practice have yet to be addressed, including questions about the validity and usefulness of information obtained on these sites, applicant perceptions of employers’ use of these sites, and the legality of using these sites.”

There are differing opinions on whether or not a company’s human resources department should be able to legally view a potential new employee’s social media profile, as part of the hiring process. If negative information is found, the company has a right not to hire that person who is seeking employment with their organization or company. The company or organization, however, needs to set up a policy on how the information obtained from viewing a candidate’s social media profile will be used in the hiring decision, and this should be conveyed to any potential candidates during the hiring process.

The Intent of Social Media

Social media started out as a means to connect people with each other. It was started to allow people to keep in contact with certain groups and individuals in a social context. However, people today have turned social media into a place to post their dirty laundry. People have posted things such as using illegal drugs to obscene profanity and nudity. Many people fail to realize that anything posted on the Internet is there to stay and these types of actions will follow them for the rest of their lives and could also be the reason they are not hired for employment.

Candidate Screening, Social Network Sites and Legal Issues

Companies and organizations, for years, have been able to do background and credit report checks on candidates to find out the type of person they may be hiring.  In essence, there is no difference between checking a social media profile for the same type of information. If a company wants to know if a person has creditworthiness, they can check the person’s credit history. Additionally, during an interview, an employer can ask a candidate knowledge skills assessment questions. These types of questions may include asking the candidate how he handles stress or to explain how he handled his last conflict on the job. A person can easily give a textbook answer to these questions; however, their social media profile, such as on Facebook, may reveal classified information such as they cursed at a previous supervisor or stole company supplies. Knowing this type of information about a person would likely cause a hiring manager not to hire that person.

There was a case, in recent news, in which an ABC employee who was upset about a work project, sent out a message on his Twitter account stating he hated his job and when he finds employment elsewhere he would leave his position at ABC. Unfortunately, this “tweet” was read by several ABC managers and the employee was fired the next day (Davison, Maraist & Bing, 2011). Does this cross legal realms? No doubt, ABC has assigned someone to monitor employee social media accounts to look for incidents such as this.

Given the fact that social media sites are free for all to see, then someone posting something that they normally would not want their employer to see is fair game. In this particular case, the ABC employee caused his own firing by posting negative comments about his employer for the world to see. It is understandable how employers would frown on this type of behavior as it could put them in a negative light in the marketplace.

There has not been much research regarding the legal ramifications of using social media in the hiring process. Most companies believe as long as they are not crossing the age, gender, race and/or religion lines, they are within their legal rights to use social media to hire or fire any employee. In addition, it is interesting to note that if a company knows of the illegal background of an individual, but choses to hire that person anyway, may find itself under legal investigation. Slovensky and Ross (2012) states, “A legal doctrine of ‘negligent hiring’ has emerged in the USA that holds organizations should conduct reasonable background checks when screening applicants.” A reasonable background check includes, but is not limited to, public records and postings on the Internet such as information found on social media sites. This being stated, it gives more reason for human resources managers to review a potential recruit’s social media account. The discovery of negative or illegal actions should prevent hiring managers from hiring a person who may later pose as a negative in the company and a possible threat to other people within the company. It is a company’s obligation to do all that it can to protect the well-being of its employees in the workplace.

Privacy Issues

There are numerous concerns that human resources managers are violating personal privacy by accessing an applicant’s social media site information. In most cases, when a person posts information on Facebook, for example, it is no longer private because the person has placed it out on the World Wide Web, where anyone in the world can see it. To prevent this, a person must select the appropriate privacy settings in order to hide his information from the general public if he does not want something in the profile to be seen by just anyone pulling up the profile.

It is the opinion of some that, depending on the job a person is applying for, the potential employer should be allowed to ask for the username and password to a candidate’s social networking profile. If applicants can post out to hundreds of friends about their weekends, pictures, etc., why not provide it to a company who could potentially employ the applicant? Some may disagree with this concept. For example, in the case in which a correctional officer in Bozeman, Montana was reapplying for his job after being on family leave, the company asked for access to his social networking site. He complied and got his job back, but he later filed a lawsuit against the company after feeling that he was treated illegally by the company asking for his social networking site profile information as a condition to get his job back.

Advantages and Percentages of the Use of Social Media Sites in Hiring Processes

One advantage of the use of social media sites in the hiring process includes company job postings being seen by potential applicants who are actively looking for specific jobs. Applicants can do keyword searches on social media sites. Another advantage is in favor of hiring professionals who can also search social networking sites by keywords to find applicants and screen candidates. They can also develop targeted interview questions for potential candidates as well as perform targeted marketing for specific job postings (Davison, Maraist & Bing, 2011), and a significant amount of employers are now using social media screening as part of their hiring processes.

A 2009 CareerBuilder survey reports that 45 percent of employers surveyed stated they use social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, for candidate job screening as part of their hiring processes. The number of employers responding favorably to this survey was 2,600, which is a 22 percent increase from the previous year 2008. The survey also revealed that of those companies participating whom were not currently using social networking sites for candidate screening, 11 percent acknowledged that they would start (Grasz, 2009).

It is interesting to note that out of the 2,600 hiring managers surveyed, the breakdown of which social media sites they use is varied. According to Grasz (2009), “Of those who conduct online searches/background checks of job candidates, 29 percent use Facebook, 26 percent use LinkedIn and 21 percent use MySpace. One-in-ten (11 percent) search blogs while 7 percent follow candidates on Twitter.” Additionally, those hiring managers who reported not hiring candidates based on derogatory information found on social media profiles cited reasons such as seeing posts about candidates drinking or drugging, showing inappropriate pictures, speaking badly about previous employers, coworkers or clients, making discriminatory comments or lying about their qualifications (Grasz, 2009).

Conclusion

As it stands and based on the information found in the research of this report, the use of social media sites as a screening tool for human resource managers is a viable option, although the concept is associated with controversy and differing opinions. The concept is, however, innovative in its approach and makes sense in an age of technological advancements and Internet savvy.

References

Brown, V. R., & Vaughn, E. (2011). The Writing on the (Facebook) Wall: The Use of Social Networking Sites in Hiring Decisions. Journal of Business & Psychology, 26(2), 219-225. Retrieved December 28, 2012

Cain, J., Scott, D. R., & Smith, K. (2010). Use of social media by residency program directors for resident selection. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 67(19/20), 1635-1639. Retrieved December 28, 2012

Davison, H. K., Maraist, C., & Bing, M. N. (2011). Friend or Foe? The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Social Networking Sites for HR Decisions. Journal of Business & Psychology, 26, 153-159. Retrieved December 28, 2012

Grasz, J. (2009, August 24). 45% Employers use Facebook-Twitter to screen job candidates. Oregon Business Report. Retrieved December 28, 2012, from http://oregonbusinessreport.com/2009/08/45-employers-use-facebook-twitter-to-screen-job-candidates/

Kubitz, R. (2012, May 22). Social media and human resources – tips. Pittsburgh Business Times . Retrieved December 28, 2012, from http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/blog/socialmadness/2012/05/social-media-and-human-resources—tips.html?page=all

Screening. (n.d.). BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved December 28, 2012, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/screening.html

Slovensky, R., & Ross, W. H. (2012). Should human resource managers use social media to screen job applicants? Managerial and legal issues in the USA. info, 14(1), 55-69. Retrieved December 28, 2012

Tanyeri, D. (2010, January). How to Hire Now. Restaurant Business. Retrieved December 28, 2012

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