Recruiters in many contemporary organizations are experimenting with social media to attract, source and court prospects, in many cases very effectively. Parallel to social recruiting is another emerging practice, cyber-vetting. Never before has it been so easy to to find out the skinny on a potential candidate than it is today. A few keystrokes and clicks of a mouse and a savvy Recruiter can view anyone's digital footprints.
Cyber-vetting is an important area of study for employment law and organizational communication because of its potential to affect identity(ies), work and organizational practices, including selection and socialization.
Cyber-vetting is a process by which organizational representatives use freely accessible information gathered from online tools or sites such as search engines or social networking communities to gather information about (potential) employees.
What Recruiter or organization wouldn't want to save time and money and have a third eye?
Having insight above and beyond a background check has always been a painstaking process. Calls to employment references no longer yield the results employers look for in our litigious society. Employers are too afraid to speak and all you're likely to get are dates of employment, title and possibly a salary.
However, it's not illegal to ask an employer or ex-coworker about the work ethic, quality of work, and any other habits you would care to know about before further considering a candidate. So, what's the difference in getting the information from a voice over the phone or digitally? In my opinion, not much. If a Hiring Manager or HR type does decide to spill the beans of undesirability you're liable to get a dose of subjectivity that will leave you with your eyebrow raised just as high as might the hairy scary things you find staring you in the face on your monitor.
However, your monitor isn't likely to have duct tape on it like the Manager's lips do.
What's important is what you do with the information you learn.
Recently 2 very telling studies were released. Peopleclick produced a complimentary eBook, Social Networks and Employment Law, by Dr. Lisa Harpe of the Peopleclick Research Institute and CareerBuilder partnered with Harris Interactive to survey over 2600 hiring managers and HR professionals about their use of social media.
While I recommend you take the time to view both studies, in a nutshell as they pertain to cyber-vetting, they both confirm what we already know. It's happening. In fact, CareerBuilder.com reported an increase in Hiring Managers pre-screening applicants from 22% last year to 45% in 2009 and another 11% planning to start in the near future.
So why the controversy about cyber-vetting?
Take a look at your organization and where within it you find the least progressive, most conservative element?
While some are maverick cybernauts in the Wild Wild West of social media recruiting, the majority are voyeurs holding back, peeking out from behind a thinly veiled recruiting cloud waiting for corporate attorneys to give the go ahead or the first publicized lawsuits to put a complete cabosh on cyber-vetting.
Have no fear.....
In the U.S., Federal anti-discrimination regulations provide the guidelines you currently follow in your recruiting and hiring practices, right? Apart from providing for what they are intended to do, guarantee fair hiring practices, the cool thing about these regulations is that they do not stipulate how you attract or screen candidates, just that you treat them all the same. Just like you do now, if you are still using more traditional methods.
To ensure you don't do something potentially career damaging, unfair to to candidates and illegal, no matter how you source, attract, engage and screen candidates, follow these laws enforced by the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to the fullest extent.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex,
national origin or religion. This federal law covers private employers, state and local
governments and educational institutions with at least 15 employees. Protections
have been extended to include discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, sex
stereotyping and sexual harassment.
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination
based on disability. Employers may not inquire about disability prior to an offer of
employment and must make reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits employment
discrimination based on age, particularly protecting individuals 40 and older.
Federal Contractors additionally need to adhere to this law, enforced by the Office of Federal Contract
Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
- Executive Order 11246 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national
origin or religion. Also requires federal contractors to monitor their personnel
practices and take affirmative action where indicated.
If you are not working under U.S. law, it would be ultra prudent to check out the regulations in Timbuktu or wherever you happen to be. I don't know, I feel compelled to say that. It's a CYA thing.
Optional digression: Do you think there is benefit to checking out Tahitian employment law? If I'm blogging tomorrow about cabana boys bringing exotic tropical drinks to my hammock strung between 2 palm trees you'll know that osmotic transport is not strictly endemic to science, it has practical applications too.
Now that job seekers know that we're out there looking at them (and I don't believe that even one doesn't), many make tremendously good use of social media to market themselves as viable and desirable candidates. In fact, Recruiters and HR are out there tweeting and blogging tips on how to maximize a job seeker's social media presence. Are Recruiters and Hiring Managers to ignore these gems too, or just the transgressions? To see one you must see the other. Why would you think it's OK to attract and source but not look?
There may be things you are not thinking of in regard to documentation. For example, if you are asking candidates to friend you on Facebook and connect with you on LinkedIn, are you documenting that? Aha! It's a form of communication and just like you would document phone calls and save any other electronic communication with the candidate this isn't any different.
Tip: Screen captures are a lot easier than typing.
Read the reports and do some searching on cyber-vetting, check with your corporate attorney, find out how companies with corporate policies on this subject are managing it. In other words, educate yourself to CYA, and protect your company and candidates.
Have fun, be fair, and check out socialseek, a cool new downloadable app I recently came across and like.
P.S. Thanks to Carmen Hudson, aka. @peopleshark for the suggestion to blog on this topic.