Recruiting and Staffing, Talent Management

Time To Face The Facts: Social Media Sourcing Is Social Media Screening

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A year ago, I did a presentation and I asked how many people Googled a candidate or checked their social profiles. Many of them had and one of them said they Googled me when they saw I was doing the presentation and didn’t know who I was.

Intrigued, I asked them how far down in the search results they went and they didn’t go very far. They saw my work on TLNT, my own blog, and Twitter. I told them if they had gone down further, they would have seen a deep dark secret of mine: that I also make films, art and music for the fantasy fiction genre. Some of it is a bit racy.

The only problem is, that isn’t me.

Dude, where’s your profile?

Now you have to go deep, way deep, to find that information. I am fortunate to have an uncommon name, a large online presence, and my name twin isn’t nearly as aggressive.

But misidentification happens. A year ago, Laurie Ruettimann wrote a popular TLNT post about not Googling during the recruiting process. And I’m willing to push back on the idea that it’s all bad. A thoughtful individual can determine the relevance of information found online.

In fact, if you’re doing your job, you were probably like me and looking for incongruities in their professional background. Did they really graduate from college? Did they really have that experience?

I can tell you that I never disqualified anyone based on information found online, and I Googled people all of the time. If questions came up, I asked them about it and took it from there.

Screening versus sourcing

Of course, I’m talking about screening after the candidacy has been established. Any action taken after the point of first contact with the candidate is inherently more risky (and it becomes more risky as you progress through the process).

I get that. And as Ruettimann has pointed out, there are services that can help reduce that risk. I’m all for that if you’re not 100 percent confident in your screening process.

But how confident are you in your social media sourcing process?

Every time I talk about Googling candidates, I get a response from someone who says that they only use Google and social sites for sourcing, not screening. The way they state it makes me think they feel they deserve a ribbon for it. Now let’s hold the phone on this.

Are we saying that the same problems of misidentification, falsification, and discrimination doesn’t happen in the sourcing process? When you’re creating lists of passive or active candidates and your researchers are exposed to personal information, pictures and misidentified candidates, are you 100 percent sure they are creating a list that doesn’t fall into the same trap that social media screening can fall into?

Human element

Now there will be some research pros (maybe some who are attending TLNT’s sister site’s SourceCon this week) who will take this the wrong way. I’m certain that most of the lists created by sourcing professionals are good lists (just like I believe most Googling typically results in nothing negative coming out of the process).

But even people with the best intentions can make mistakes.

For example, if a recruiter client wants a really tight list for an accelerated search, the basis on who makes the cut and who doesn’t can’t be 100 percent objective. Not to mention, if there is an expectation from a recruiter client that they want a clean slate with no surprises, a researcher can help clean out that list (and again, potentially weed out some people unfairly in that process).

Risks may be different but principle the same

The point is, if you have humans as part of your sourcing process, you can as easily fall into the same traps that you do when you screen for candidates using social media. Excluding someone from a list of candidates is, in all practicality, the same as excluding them further down the line.

Now certainly the risks are different. As I mentioned above, a candidate who doesn’t even know they’ve been excluded from a recruiting list is almost a non-risk, especially in comparison to someone who has made it through several steps and then is excluded.

But isn’t it just as bad? Shouldn’t we be just as cautious as we are with social media sourcing as we are with social media screening?

We know that the hiring process is one filled with mistakes and no single process can ever make the perfect decision. By the same token though, our focus on improving the hiring process should be about removing potential mistake points.

If you’re not using the same care to source candidates as you do to screen candidates, you’re making a mistake. And it may not show itself as a lawsuit or other potential legal problem but it will impact the effectiveness of your hiring process just as much.

Lance Haun is an editor at The Starr Conspiracy, a marketing agency focused on the enterprise HCM market. He spent three years as an editor at ERE Media and seven years in the recruiting and HR trenches before joining the agency. You can follow him on Twitter, circle him on Google+, check out his blog or contact him directly at lance@coug.rs.
  • http://twitter.com/jprpich John Prpich

    Here’s the issue that I have with all of this, aside from the fact that it reeks of being Orwellian.
    Your comment,” I can tell you that I never disqualified anyone based on information found online,”, that’s nice but that’s you and certainly not everyone else.  I can tell you that many people have been disqualified for information that they found online, let’s remember, not everyone is a good decision maker.

    Your comment, “For example, if a recruiter client wants a really tight list for an accelerated search, the basis on who makes the cut and who doesn’t can’t be 100 percent objective.” No kidding, it’s based on emotional bias.  When did you see a recruiter client sit down and identify the key criteria for a position and then go a step further a segregate that criteria, it never happens, and it should.

    Risks may be different but principle the same
    I think that you are spot on in this area of your article.  The real issue has to do with our inability to make optimal decisions.  Dan Pink said it best, “Management doesn’t practice what science knows.”  It really doesn’t matter whether you have a great recruiting and interviewing process if you can’t make an optimal decision;.