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How to approach pre-screening of candidates on social networks during recruitment

Despite the ongoing press publicity and warnings from employers there continues to be daily instances of businesses being adversely affected by inappropriate postings made online by staff. Sarah Poynton from SP Index says there are five things to remember when looking at candidates online profiles during the recruitment process.

1. Missing out on the best talent

Recruiters can easily jump to a wide variety of conclusions after viewing online social profiles during the recruitment process. Talent is being rejected for all kinds of reasons - a single online photo, the football team they support, the type of music they like, or even who they are friends with.

If you are one of the growing numbers of UK companies using social networking sites during recruitment you should be careful not to let wild imagination and assumptions creep in, otherwise you will undoubtedly be giving away some of the best talent to your competitors. Remain fair and objective and focus on the skill-sets, qualities and professionalism of the individual – these factors are also quite often found online!

2. A quick Google search does not make a profile

Social networking feeds the hunger of those recruiters who need to ‘find out more’ about an individual before employing them. However, they rarely have sufficient skills or time to carry out more than a quick look at the first page Google results, the first few status posts on Facebook, or a quick look at a small selection of photos on one or two websites. This quick snapshot is definitely not going to be a fair reflection of an individual’s overall online personality and style. More thorough research is required in order to gain an accurate impression about the individual – good or bad.

If your business carries out such searches you should think about using specialist profiling companies instead who will look objectively at an individual’s wider digital footprint using enhanced online matrix search techniques and within a fraction of the time. You can then legally and compliantly consider the result in the context of the culture of your organisation and the qualities required for a specific role.

3. Discrimination is rife

After viewing an individual’s social networks you will certainly be exposed to various protected characteristics that are sheltered by the Equality Act 2010 - designed to protect both the candidate and business and to ensure that selection is based on a fair process. Visibility of these protected characteristics can sometimes result in recruiters making positive or negative discriminatory decisions during the recruitment process and therefore leaving themselves open to discrimination claims. You can avoid this situation by implementing policies that will restrict what recruiting managers should look at online or by using a reputable 3rd party to carry out online social profiling on your behalf.

4. Referencing in the 21st Century

Businesses often say that they do not have a problem with online activities of employees because they have employee loyalty and checking social networks would be too draconian. They used to say the same thing about criminal records checks before the launch of the CRB (now DBS) in 2002 yet this is now standard practice because in truth an employee’s activities when they are representing your brand and dealing with your customers do matter and can very easily damage reputation or worse damage customers.

If there is no real value to screening using online social profiles, why have some of the biggest brands in the world had to dismiss junior and senior staff for misrepresenting the company online? It may not have happened in your business yet, but make sure you are pro-actively and compliantly protecting against these issues by engaging with employees and taking relevant precautions. Online social profiling has become the referencing tool of the current era and brings with it many positive advantages.

5. Time is Money

On average it takes at least 20 minutes for a recruiting manager to search and locate an individual online, read the articles presented, find the individual on just one or two of the big three social networking sites. On top of this, individuals already spend on average 13 minutes in every one hour at work using social media.

Combining these two factors, your business is already likely to be unwittingly wasting a significant amount of time and money. Ensure you have the appropriate policies and procedures in place to carry out efficient online checks as well as strong monitoring and preventative policies in place for those employees who access social media during working hours.

The underlying trend shows that social media and online networking is growing rather than going out of fashion. Instead of acting outside of the legislation, putting your business at risk of discriminating, or missing out on the best talent, get in touch with a specialist online social profiling company such as who are thought leaders on the subject.

Please share your feedback on this article @SP_index and include the hash tag #onlinesocialprofiling.

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