Employers warned over social media recruitment policy

Employers who use social media to screen job candidates must be consistent, an HR expert says, with a new report highlighting the impact that social media profiles have on hiring intentions.


A new Telstra report reveals more than a quarter of Australian bosses use social networking sites to screen job candidates, suggesting social media profiles carry more weight than they used to.


The report is based on research conducted by Pure Profile, which surveyed 1,255 Australian workers who actively participate in their organisation’s employment process.


Almost half of the employers surveyed admit to turning away job candidates based on negative material they have viewed on the candidate’s Facebook profile or Twitter feed.


However, more than a third of employers who screen social media profiles have hired prospects based on positive material they have seen.


Darren Kane, Telstra officer of internet trust and safety, says while material is primarily shared for the benefit of one’s friends, they can lead employers to make judgment calls.


“Cyber CV faux pas candidates make include posting inappropriate pictures (31% of employers say this counts against applicants) and posting discriminatory comments (37%),” Kane says.


Facebook is the most popular social network screener, with 41% of bosses who screen applicants via social media opting for Facebook, followed by LinkedIn (31%) and Twitter (14%).


“The research also shows that one in ten employers use Facebook and other social networking sites as a means of keeping an eye on productivity,” Kane says.


Martin Nally, founder of recruitment firm hranywhere, says employers should be very careful with regard to using social media to screen job candidates because it is such a subjective method.


Nally also points out that people use different social media platforms for different purposes, so viewing only one platform can skew an employer’s perception of a particular candidate.


“There’s no intonation with this stuff – your judgment is your judgment,” Nally says.


“When people use professional systems such as LinkedIn, they’re in a situation where they think the audience they’re talking to is a professional audience.”


“Facebook is [directed at] another audience and sometimes people say things they shouldn’t or they don’t think it will be used for that purpose.”


Nally says while it is important for current and prospective employees to be mindful of what they say on social media, employees should also be careful with regard to what they take seriously.


“If you don’t know the person, you’re making a judgment. Like anything else, [social media] cannot be the only means – it’s got to be one of them,” Nally says.


“If you use social media as the only selection criteria, you will fail. If you use it as one of the tools and it assists you to build a picture, that’s a valid use.”


Nally says it all comes down to consistency and transparency.


“Any organisation that’s going to use social media [as a screening] mechanism must not do it in an ad hoc manner. It needs to be strategic and directed,” he says.


“The message to employers is to use everything available to you but be transparent. If you’re not, and you’re not consistent, you may find yourself in difficulty.”


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