What Does Use of Social Media Reveal? About Recruits? About You?

No matter my opinion of social media, one thing I know for sure is that it is here to stay.

I find that discussing the use of social media in the hiring process is an important topic in my ethics class, where crucial questions are addressed. Is it legal?  Is its use beneficial?  Can we learn something about ourselves in the process?

I do believe the use of social media[i] following the initial interview is legal because those involved in the recruitment and staffing process will most likely have already discovered the applicant’s membership in any one of several protected classes. Such an “after-the-fact” review would not likely cause an organization to run into EEOC trouble.

An interview is a time when an applicant will highlight their positive attributes. Even if asked about areas in which they struggle, but the interview is not a time to reveal the negative. Scanning social media can help the employer gain valuable lawful information.  The employer can learn positive things like relevant volunteer work, a candidate’s outlook on life or how they handle stressful situations—all possible reasons to hire someone.  However, social media scanning can also reveal negatives like a poor work ethic, or even racial or political rants—potential reasons not to hire someone.  There are key issues when using social media in the hiring process, including: when it is done, who is doing the search, and what information is and is not ultimately used to make the decision to hire.

Finally, what can using social media reveal about us? We tend to gravitate towards people who are like us. This can be caused by biases that we embrace on an unconscious level—deep prejudices or stereotypes imparted by upbringing, culture, and mass media that indelibly influence our perceptions about people, and our attitudes and behavior toward them.[ii]   Pictures of kids playing soccer or a family camping may resonate with us, but we may use our unconscious bias to make a hiring decision based on personal fit rather than best fit for the culture of the company.  Using social media is beneficial and legal if used properly.  It can also reveal hidden biases that may sway our hiring decisions.  To find out more, visit the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a well-respected tool designed to uncover hidden biases about everything from race to gender to weight and age.

  • What are your unconscious attitudes and associations regarding gender and race?
  • Would you be surprised to learn, for example, that you unconsciously favor one gender or racial group over another?[iii]

[i] The top 15 social media sites in order of monthly active users include: Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Vine, Pinterest, Ask.fm, Tumblr, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn, VK, ClassMates, and Meetup. For  the full report, link to Dreamgrow’s web page: https://www.dreamgrow.com/top-15-most-popular-social-networking-sites/

[ii] Wilkie, D. (2014, Dec 1). Tips for rooting out hidden bias. retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0217/pages/disrupting-diversity-in-the-workplace.aspx

[iii] Implicit Association Test. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.understandingprejudice.org/iat/

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