To: Sheila Lass
Subject: Online Profiles
Date: 21 March, 2017
As the world increasingly transforms into an internet-dependent community, more and more companies are turning their attention to social networking sites during the employee recruitment process (Sheehan and Smith 46). However, when exploiting online profiles as a resource during the hiring process, companies must exercise caution as there are serious legitimate concerns involved in perusing online profiles of recruitment candidates. Before utilizing the online profiles in hiring, companies must first understand the legalities of social media.
A legally acceptable way of utilizing online profiles in the recruitment process is to examine the applicants’ own public accounts and postings, which potentially reveal a clearer picture of them as potential employees. However, the legal risks involved with discovering and disclosing information regarding sensitive characteristics such as religious affiliation, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, and age often deter many companies from seeking more information about their prospective employees online (Sheehan and Smith 94). Some of these characteristics may not be immediately evident during face-to-face interviews, thus requiring interviewers to be cautious when handling them. To deal with such legal issues, it is critical that the company upholds legal standards when performing searches on candidates’ online profiles.
To maintain the legality of the searches, the hiring panel must be especially careful not to include in its interview questions, or even hiring decisions, elements that go beyond the legal interview bounds. According to Sheehan and Smith (112), the best practice for using social media in the hiring process involves first meeting candidates face to face before transitioning to their online profiles to enhance knowledge of their applicability for the job. This is likely to protect the organization from being accused of relying mainly on protected characteristics drawn from online profiles in making hiring decisions. In addition, to ensure that the company operates within the legal framework, in using social media in its recruitment process, it should conduct similar searches at similar points in the hiring process, for every candidate.
In addition to paying close attention to the manner in which it collects candidates’ information from social media, the company must also take special care to use such information legally. Social media offers extensive lawful information that can demonstrate to the company whether the candidate has a deeper interest in the job. However, the company should utilize online profiles as extensions of candidates’ physical resumes, and not base final employment decisions on these profiles (Sheehan and Smith 164). Additionally, the company can use online profiles as conversation starters that produce deeper understanding of candidates, especially if the position requires familiarity with social media. Ultimately, a viable way to ensure the legality of online profile reviews is to have applicants sign waivers that permit the company to review their online accounts, and prepare the candidates for the company’s review of their publicly posted online profiles.
On the other hand, the company should also review, as well as audit, its own social media presence. The company must realize that reviewing online profiles goes both ways as applicants could also be reviewing the company’s online profile in an attempt to discover the identity of interviewers beforehand. Consequently, the organization needs to have a strong online presence that establishes a concrete company brand and provides job seekers with critical information regarding the company (Sheehan and Smith 297). In this regard, the company should ensure that its online materials are both legal and accurate, such as ensuring that its profiles define it as an equal opportunity employer.
Sheehan, Jeff., and Smith, Alfred. HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era. Georgia: Transition Sherpa, LLC, 2014. Print.
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