Social media as part of background checking (Part 4)

Finally part four!

In case you missed the reason we are here have a look at the last few posts. In the first post we looked at laying a foundation for the discussion and about how social media allows you access to a unique view on a candidate’s character. In part two I discussed the issue of cultural fit and it’s important and how social media can help assess the cultural fit of a person. In part three I looked at some of the possible legal issues with using the information found online as part of the selection process.

In the final part of this series I want to bring it all together. A statement between the time I write this and when it is published others may have joined in on the discussion, I know Recruiter Daily will, I may have missed some critically posts in the story, sorry.

The Social Contract

Last week I was chatting with Jared Woods and Kelly O’Shaughnessy and it would be fair to say we probably have slightly differing opinions on the subject, or we did last week :-). One of the out comes during our chat was that more agencies need to disclose what they are doing when it comes to social media content. If you are going to use data you find online, is your Privacy Policy and Collection Statement up to date to cover these activities? Secondly if you are an agency have you spoken with your consultants to ensure that they understand their responsibilities? A really good example comes from SKM’s Graduate Recruitment Blog, which given their target market actually makes sense not sure the same could be said if they were hiring CFO’s.


A big part of this whole issue is not privacy, disclosure, ethics etc, it is the fact that recruiter, employers and candidates do not fully understand this new world of social media.

Recruiters (agency and internal) need to learn how to assess the content for it’s suitability to be used as part of the recruitment process. This includes understanding the culture of each service. A not so suitable photo may appear on Facebook but that is the nature of the beast, the same photo on Flickr or blog or even LinkedIn is not really sensible. The very nature of Twitter makes it easy for a “short off the cuff” comment to be posted, recruiters need to understand these dynamics before using the data. This is one reason as part of the work Inspecht does helping clients understand the service culture is part of the listening phase.


Another major question that has been drawn from the discussions so far is how can someone objectively assess what is online for truth and accuracy? One way maybe to use the DIKW model, where once intelligence is overlaid on data it turns into information, knowledge and eventually wisdom. It is through this process we are able to turn these “online clues” into insight about a candidate and objectively assess the online content (thanks to Ross Clennett).

A key method in demonstrating objectivity is to have a defined process on how you use social media as part of your selection process. If you are going to Google candidates, then every candidate needs to undergo the same treatment, and the result stored so that you can demonstrate fairness in your processes. Further when developing your selection criteria for the role, make sure you include statements around the relevance or not of social media information.

Jared Woods provides some great examples on how hard can be to assess a candidate objectively by using data found online. Unfortunately in each one of these examples if used in selection the recruiter in question has breeched the discrimination laws and should be punished. The anti-discrimination laws are very clear sexual, religious preferences cannot be used as part of the recruitment process.

Background Checking Recruiters

I wonder how many recruiters have thought about the issues of candidates and clients background checking them using social media before engaging their services?

The End Game

A lot of the discussion is on ethics, social contracts, discrimination, education and the like actually come down the the fact that when we are online we loose access to many of our traditional social inputs. This is why we have flame wars. In fact this need for social skills was covered just last week by my colleague Kate Carruthers in her post Real world social values and social networking to quote Kate:

Social media is now providing us with tangible evidence of how many people lack (or fail to demonstrate) the basic skills required to get along well in the playground. And these are the same skills we need to work successfully with other grown-ups, both online and offline.

Recruiters and Hiring Managers who lack the sufficient level of Emotional Intelligence will find it very difficult to objectively assess a candidate regardless of if they research candidates online.

However in the end I see this whole issue is actually about the candidates, not agencies or employers. Candidates need to learn that they should be proactively their online reputation. Before you say why should they? I would ask why did you go to school, university or attend training? Why do you network? To proactively manage your career. So the same should be true for your online reputation.

In closing this was a fairly long journey however I hope this has given you something to think about and not bored you in the process.

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