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The clever, cautious way not to miss out on the best candidates

Mary Cullen is the founder and managing director of Insight HR, a boutique firm of HR consultants providing human resources advice and support to companies across Ireland.

You may have heard the old adage of not putting anything in an email that you wouldn't want said in court. Well another one may be emerging - job-seeking candidates not posting anything on social media that they wouldn't want a prospective future employer to know about.

Candidates won’t do themselves any favours if HR practitioners and recruitment specialists can view Facebook photos of them being drunk and disorderly. But that's a bit simplistic and perhaps a tad alarmist. Granted a candidate may think that the use of social media by those involved in recruiting is solely for vetting purposes and candidates would be naïve to think that no such vetting is happening. But there is more to it than that. When it comes to recruitment, many companies are using social media to promote specific job openings and, more generally, to promote their organisations as good places to work. In other words, their usage of social media goes beyond vetting candidates. The usage is bi-directional – they’re listening but they’re also broadcasting.

Also, just as with individuals, there are both benefits and risks to an organisation's use of social media. Organisations want to recruit the best. Correspondingly, they need to be careful not to exclude from consideration those candidates who do not use social media. For example, age and socioeconomic status are two variables that could impact on social media usage. Organisations also need to be mindful of the legal and ethical implications of using social media to find out about candidates. For example, if you decide to not recruit someone because you see from their Facebook page that they have a disability, then you are falling foul of employment equality legislation (disability is just one of a number of grounds on which discrimination is prohibited). Similarly there is data protection legislation and guidance to consider. At the very least, you need to be mindful of how you gather personal data, whom you allow it to be seen by, and how and for how long you store it.

Accuracy of information is another consideration and Facebook can be problematic when it comes to accuracy. Those professionals involved in recruiting might think that a person is being more honest on Facebook than they might be in a cover letter. However, a person’s personal Facebook page is sometimes a reflection of the picture they want to present to their social world as opposed to the picture they do present to the world. We all know people whose online persona is more vivacious and gregarious than the reality!Also not all social media sites are the same. Recruitment is a core part of LinkedIn. It facilitates peoples profiles being viewed by potential employers and it also allows candidates to follow and to target companies. But LinkedIn is definitely not a “personal” space.  

In contrast, there are other social media tools that are a mixture of private and professional. These include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others. Recruitment is obviously not at the core of Facebook but there are job seeker groups on it. Twitter, though not as targeted as LinkedIn, can also be a valuable tool for recruitment specialists. Check out this link to see a small sample of the usage of Pinterest. All these social media tools enable companies to broaden their reach, for example, through having employees broadcast jobs to their social networks.

Supply and demand is also something for recruiting companies to consider. From the candidate's perspective, they may not want to work for the sort of organisation which is using its limited resources to pry into their personal online presence. If you develop a reputation for such snooping then your company is going to suffer reputational damage.

Overall, perhaps the appropriate word is caution. Don’t engage in a vast relentless trawl of all social media sites! Instead be judicious. Beware of missing out on the best candidates. Don’t develop a snooping reputation. And of course don’t break the law!

The Author: Mary Cullen is the founder and managing director of Insight HR, a boutique firm of HR consultants providing human resources advice and support to companies across Ireland. Mary can be contacted on 056-7701060 or by email at

  • Aug 14, 2017
  • Careers , Ireland
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