Get personalized career counselling from an IIT Bombay topper & ex-McKinsey consultant
Learn more

Role of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) in Hiring & Recruitment

Social Media Hiring

Social media recruitment is the buzzword in recruitment circles. It essentially refers to using social media channels to hire employees instead of more conventional ones. Advantages typically include a wider and a more organic reach, direct contact with prospective candidates and lower costs. You can read more about this in these posts:
How recruitment works
Referral recruitment

So as a prospective job seeker, Social Media Recruitment (or Recruitment 2.0 as they like to call it) is potentially beneficial to you. It allows you to get in touch with organizations directly and let’s you find out about opportunities through your connections if you leverage it properly – as many have. However at the end of the day – as long as you eventually get the job you want, it doesn’t really matter how you got it – does it?

But the use of Social Media in Recruitment is a different ball game altogether. And this is one which today does impact probably almost all job seekers and candidates. The difference in terminology may be slight but it is one which permeates all levels and sources of hiring. More importantly, it is probably something you as a job seeker can control.

So what does the use of social media in recruitment broadly encompass?

It involves organizations – and that includes recruiters, managers and leaders – using social media channels to:

  • Understand better the candidates whom they will be interviewing, meeting and hiring
  • Attempt to validate various hypotheses formed during interviews and the hiring process
  • Do surreptitious background checks in a more convenient manner


Is it ethical to use social networking sites for recruitment?

Before the how, the why. The morality and ethics of using social media for recruitment are still up for debate. There are probably three major issues here for us as candidates:

1) Using personal social media information without consent

Background checks have been used by organizations as a pre-recruitment screening technique since ages. Social Media has just made this much easier.

While the nature may have changed from whispers in the Old Boys’ Club to more formal consultants who’re paid to verify objective details of background – these background checks have probably always existed in some form. A lot of jobs and educational opportunities require you to formally share references whom they can call up and speak to – and these are about as unbiased as a mother would be while talking up her kid.

Most recruiters and managers ‘use their networks’ i.e. call up people whom they know who would have worked previously with a prospective candidate – and see absolutely nothing wrong in it. Also there is an inherent subjectivity in this exercise, depending on whom you speak to the feedback you receive may be starkly different.

If you were hiring someone and had an alternative between picking someone who’d worked with a friend and was strongly recommended, versus picking someone completely unknown – most of us would side with the known one, which is pretty similar to this.

The only difference now is, that the modern recruiter doesn’t even need to speak to anyone and can avoid any biases. A simple Google search can give you the information you need and let you form your own opinions.

2) Information Asymmetry

The point made here is essentially – look it would be fine to use social media for recruitment if you use it for all candidates in the same manner. However, information available for everyone is in differing levels of details – the continuum may extend from no information at all, to professional information only, to a mix of personal and professional information in varying levels of details. Ergo, drawing any inferences from such information is not fair.

This is however a choice made by every individual – you may choose to share your life on social media or you may not. Just like you may choose to share your personal details when asked in an interview while someone else may not be comfortable doing so.

And yes, if you share details it may tell the interviewer more about you, give him or her more data points which may or may not be beneficial; while on the other hand revealing nothing may not hurt you but also cannot help you. Once again, this is a standard real life issue being magnified thanks to technology and social media.

3) Demarcation between our personal and professional lives

This is probably the part which most candidates find the scariest. Yes, it is creepy in a way and difficult to accept that a stranger whom you may never have met before knows everything about you. However we’re well on the way to this becoming more and more valid in every facet of life.

The boundaries between personal and professional lives are blurring and will probably continue to do so even further in the near future. Persona building is an expected science in sales and a good salesperson is expected to do his homework about a potential client – right from which IPL team he supports to what kind of music he likes. This is written off as being able to strike a chord, make conversation or build a relationship.

Hiring a candidate is probably no different. And we’re already seeing that this will only increase as we go ahead and our lives coalesce. We already have applications and websites which allow us to login with our Facebook IDs, even a call from another number on Truecaller has a photograph from a Facebook profile.

As the era of switching on at 9.30 am and switching off at 6.30 PM goes, so will the ability to be one person at work and another in reality. Organizations hire you more and more for ‘more than just a job’ and would not want potential candidates to wear a mask while at work and turn into someone else after that.

I’m sure there is enough research and philosophical quotes on pretty images available on the internet to say that the best work happens when work doesn’t seem like work – or life in fact.

Thus the desire to know the real ‘person’ behind every candidate – how does someone look after 8 straight hours of work on an MS Excel sheet which get corrupted and isn’t saved? Or how does he or she react when forced to use Internet Explorer on a slow internet connection. These are the moments of truth an interviewer seeks to find!

What can job hunting candidates do about social media?

Unless you decide to become the Monk who sells his Ferrari and abstains from all of social media activity, this is one beast which probably can’t be fought. So the way to go is to probably embrace it the way that best suits you.

Figuring out your outlook and approach towards how you use social media is probably the most important and introspective step of them all. To what extent are you okay with parts of your life being public? Would you rather that you share a picture of what you’re like yourself than it coming from someone else? Are you or are you not comfortable sharing personal details, your opinions and beliefs (even at the cost of them being unpopular or politically incorrect) with complete strangers?

There is no right answer to this – we all know people who’re intimately private, people whose life is an open book and then there are those who fall somewhere in between. It is just important to understand the ramifications of these in every aspect of your life, and any recruitment process you are or would be involved in is just one of those.

Different platforms approach privacy in different ways. For the more professional ones like LinkedIn for example, everything is fair game. For others such as the ubiquitous Facebook, there are complex and disputably effective ways of restricting who can see what.

Finally, for all the Twitters, Reddits and Pinterests of the world, you may always choose to use a pseudonym if you would like to keep that persona of yours distinct.

Unlike what a lot of candidates tend to suspect, most judicious recruiters and rational hiring managers would not be concerned about views which differ from theirs – as long as they do not directly affect the kind of job you do or are contrary to the organizations public stance on the same (journalism, PR and roles in the C-suite may be areas where they do matter!). For everyone else, as long as you make sense and seem well reasoned out it’s healthy to be opinionated.

What you may want to refrain from is something like disparaging or maligning your employers and bosses, even after a very frustrating day – most recruiters will believe in the past is an indicator of future behaviour. And if you do want to watch something, watch your grammar!

Managing your activity on social networking sites

This is not necessarily the same as ‘managing’ your profile – it just means understanding that an interviewer, or any individual you have a planned formal meeting with has probably looked you up before you actually meet. So it’s a good idea to have a general awareness of what they may already know about you.

Considering the number of platforms most of us are present on, it may be a good idea to actually look through all of them to see what you’ve posted or said, to at least rejig your memory. And remember, in an interview, on such matters – don’t bluff or change your stance basis the way the wind is blowing. Stick to your stand.

Also don’t conceal or distort details about previous jobs, roles and work you’ve done – finding out references, connections and mutual contacts has never been easier

In a good way perhaps – social media may at least be making us a little more honest!
Image source

Watch this video to learn how you can become an entrepreneur at a young age

Ameya Joshi
About Ameya Joshi
Ameya is an MBA from XLRI who did not get into HR & Talent Acquisition just because he liked ‘working with people’. He enjoys reading, history, trivia and of course as an Indian worth his salt, is passionate about cricket and movies.

Leave a Comment