by Tammy Binford
With more and more people seemingly addicted to Facebook and Twitter, it’s no wonder employers are developing business uses for social media. HR professionals, for example, are going beyond those most social of social media sites in their quest to find the best and brightest job seekers.
The practice isn’t without drawbacks, though. Even the best ideas can go bad if taken to an extreme. In 2012, reports surfaced about employers asking employees and applicants to turn over their social media passwords, enabling the employers to monitor online activity as part of a background checking strategy.
The demand for passwords may never have been widespread, but just the idea set off alarms, prompting job seekers and lawmakers to debate how to balance personal privacy with an employer’s need to check out employees and job candidates. A handful of states have passed laws against the practice, and more are considering bills.
Diversity not “dirt”
But instead of focusing on finding “dirt” on people, recruiters are finding success with less controversial uses of social media. By tapping into the diversity and enormity of the social media world, they’re turning up promising job candidates.
Kelly Dingee, a strategic recruiting manager at search firm Staffing Advisors, recently led a webinar for HR professionals titled “Social Media Sourcing: How to Use LinkedIn, Twtter, and More as Valuable Recruitment Tools.” She outlined how important social media is to her sourcing efforts and provided how-to tips along with potential traps.
Dingee says social media is a “huge boon” for her, and she’s been an extremely active user since 2008. “It’s part of my daily life,” she says. “It’s made a huge impact on who we can find because we do operate very much in sort of that passive candidate space.” By using social media sites, she can find resumes and detailed bios of both active and passive job seekers.
The possibilities seem endless but also daunting. Here are a few tips from Dingee on how to get a handle on the process.
- Remember that you’re relying on user-generated content. Dingee advises recruiters to explore sites from a user perspective. By creating a profile themselves, they can see what kind of content people can provide and what they can select not to give.
- Make a time investment. With all the sites available, it takes time to learn how to use them effectively. “You’ve got to figure out where candidates might be,” Dingee says. While it’s important to make good use of what she calls the “core four” – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and GooglePlus – it’s also helpful to get to know smaller social networks that may appeal to people in certain professions.
One source for turning up sites and tools is the Social Media Map available at OverdriveInteractive.com. The map lists websites, mobile apps, and tools and platforms divided into categories such as professional social networks, social recruiting, blogging, and podcasting.
- Think policy. Before delving too deeply into social media recruiting, it’s important to make policy decisions. If a company builds a social media presence designed for recruiting, it’s important to discuss what belongs to the employer vs. the employee whose job it is to interact with potential employees through social media.
Dingee says it may be OK occasionally to let an employee use his/her personal account to promote a job opportunity, but if posting on social media is part of an employee’s job, a separate account clearly tied to the company is necessary. Getting an attorney’s advice on policy language may be in order, she says.
- Learn efficient searching. Recruiting using social media requires posting openings in the right places, searching for the right candidates, extracting information, and engaging potential employees online. Dingee says “post and pray” is the wrong concept. Instead “post and be successful and know that you’re reaching people.”
Dingee likes the narrowing down capabilities made possible through Boolean searching. Using the Boolean strategy allows searchers to hone in on certain sites and search for certain terms while excluding others. For example, a searcher can add keywords to find people with certain skills, certifications, and educational and career backgrounds.
Despite the wealth of information social media supplies, recruiters need to watch out for certain red flags. For example, the National Labor Relations Board is on the lookout for policies that restrict an employee’s right to engage in “concerted activity” protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Concerted activity involves such thinks as discussing pay and other terms and conditions of employment.
The Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act presents another red flag, Dingee says. Since social media provides photos and personal information about people, employers can stumble onto information they would never seek on purpose.
For example, a job candidate shown in a photo on Facebook wearing a pink shirt with a caption explaining that she had just walked in a breast cancer fund-raiser “for Grandma” has clued in a recruiter that the candidate may be genetically predisposed to getting cancer. Dingee says Facebook isn’t a go-to site for her and it may be wise not to use it at all since that’s where so many personal photos reside.
Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR web and print publications. In addition, she writes for HR Hero Line and Diversity Insight, two of the ezines and blogs found on HRHero.com.