In a world where social media is at the forefront of communications, it is easy to see that the lines between work and private life may become blurred. However, is it fair to hold a candidate’s private profile image against their professional profile image?
Many of us use our social media profiles to enhance our personal images, so it cannot be seen as an accurate way to judge how a person may behave in real life at work. Neil Lancaster, HR director at Gamestec believes that social media screening can be very useful, as long as the recruiter focuses on the correct platforms. ‘Sites such as Facebook are best left for personal purposes, while a site like LinkedIn can be used for your professional self’ he explains. ‘Using LinkedIn in moderation as an employer can be very beneficial. For example, advertising for a niche job on LinkedIn and sharing them amongst your contacts who are in some way linked to this field targets the right audience, unlike other job specific recruitment boards could do’. In this sense, as a recruiter you are using social media as a tool to find candidates, not as a means of spying on potential candidates.
Martyn Makinson, Managing Director at Ionic Recruitment also agrees with this point. He believes that social media has ‘drastically reduced the time spent identifying suitable individuals against current vacancies.’ Social media encourages fast and direct communication as well as engagement between the recruiter and the jobseeker.’
The distinction to draw between LinkedIn and Facebook or Twitter, are that the latter are far more informal, so serve a very different purpose to individuals. These social networking sites are a place to voice personal opinions on a variety of topics. These topics usually have no bearing on a person’s working life whatsoever.
For this very reason Makinson warns firms that approaching these channels with ‘innovation and open-mindedness is crucial when viewing someone’s profile. Organizations should remember that certain social media platforms are informal channels and there is obviously a very clear distinction between a person’s personal profile and professional life. Judging someone based entirely on their embarrassing holidays snaps on Facebook or a rant on Twitter is very risky, as the company may miss out on recruiting a future star employee.’
Another important point to consider on this note, is the fact that if it comes to light that an employer or recruiter has made a judgment based on inaccurate information that has been obtained without the candidates consent, they may be open to legal challenges.
Social media screening is currently in its infancy, so there is still an element of mystery involved in using it. It is likely that only a small number of businesses are using it to keeps tabs on their employees, but these businesses may want to err on the side of caution. Lancaster explains of the ‘pitfalls these sites can create in terms of exposing employers to protected class information. Information that could potentially trigger a claim of discrimination can often be found within social media networking profiles.’
It is clear that social media can be a powerful tool if used correctly and fairly by an employer to get a general feel for a candidate, but it should never be used as the only way to make a judgment of how professional a person may be. Employers must consider carefully their policies regarding use of social media, to protect themselves and their staff from any legal issues. It must always be remembered that your staff are not working for you 24/7, so allowing them the balance between private life and work life with be mutually beneficial. You employees will respond so much better to you, if they know they have your respect.