When it comes to ECEC recruitment, social media might not be such a valuable tool
The Sector > Workforce > Leadership > When it comes to ECEC recruitment, social media might not be such a valuable tool

When it comes to ECEC recruitment, social media might not be such a valuable tool

by Freya Lucas

October 20, 2020

Job candidates in a number of sectors and industries are often warned to check their social media profiles, and be aware of the image they are portraying to prospective employers. Photographs of late night parties, videos of reckless behaviour, and commentary about hating to come to work have all been heralded as examples of “what not to do”.


Researchers from UNSW Business School, however, have found that there is “little to no correlation” for recruiters between a job candidate’s social media profile and potential on-the-job performance or retention levels. 


Since the advent of social media, employers and recruiters have been known to examine candidates’ social media profiles as part of their recruitment processes, with varying perspectives about the ethics of such practice. 


Despite the popularity of using social media to form or reinforce opinions about a candidate, “very little is known about whether it actually provides employers with accurate indications of a candidate’s suitability for the position, future performance, or length of stay in a position,” the researchers said.


Liwen Zhang, a lecturer at UNSW Business School worked with colleagues to create three studies in order to provide further insight into the process. 


Using Facebook sites as their source, the experiments covered:


  1. A content analysis of job seekers’ social media sites;
  2. Whether job seekers’ social media information is related to recruiter evaluations; and,
  3. Whether structuring social media assessments affects criterion-related validity.


“We tried to standardise the process to help improve the validity of these assessments. We provided training to recruiters, and provided more standardised evaluation forms, and tried to have multiple recruiters to assess the same applicants,” Ms Zhang said. 


The results showed that despite profile contents, there was no “extra insight” offered to employers or recruiters through searching social media. 


Ms Zhang said the studies “throw up more general questions” about the practice of using social media profiles to get to know the “real person” who may not reveal themselves through resume or interview. 


Candidates, for example, who reveal racist attitudes in social media posts would prompt further conversations as part of the hiring process, in order to protect the existing staff team and organisation as a whole from such behaviour. 


The flipside, she said, is that exploring social media profiles may reveal a candidates age, marital status or ethnicity, leaving the decision to employ or not employ open to allegations of discrimination. 


When it comes to the former, Ms Zhang said “I think it could be fair for organisations to review this information from social media and use it in staffing decisions.”


“However, if recruiters use applicants’ ethnicity or marriage status information obtained from social media sites, this will raise legal concerns.”


While candidates have the option of leaving their social media closed, or opting out altogether “there are some theories and conceptual papers suggesting that recruiters may be suspicious about job candidates with incomplete information, for example, missing social media profiles,” Ms Zhang said.


While she is not aware of any recruiters directly insisting on access to candidates’ social media, “we do see recruiters [effectively] demanding access in various ways, such as using a social media profile login to create an application profile, or to sign a consent agreement,” Ms Zhang said. 


Her advice to employers? 


“When anyone examines an applicants’ Facebook profile, it just looks like they are opening Pandora’s box.”


UNSW will host a webinar on Facebook Assessments for Hiring: Opening Pandora’s Box on Wednesday 21 October. For more information please registeror read What’s on job seekers’ social media sites? A content analysis and effects of structure on recruiter judgments and predictive validity.

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