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Recruiting & Candidate Development

Social Networking Profiles And The “War For Talent”

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The power – and pitfalls – of using the myriad information at our fingertips.  

MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and on and on and on.  We’re all familiar with the virtually unlimited number of social and professional networking communities on the Web today.

We can network with colleagues the globe over.  We can have “water cooler” conversations with friends we’ve never met in person.  We have unlimited reach and freedom to express ourselves as never before.

 That’s all great, but in the world of human resources, all of this connectivity is like a glacier moving across the landscape – unstoppable and precarious.  My clients are repeatedly asking me two questions these days:  

·     “How can I use this technology to find great employees?”

·     “Can I use the information I find when considering candidates for employment?”

By now, most companies are figuring out how to find passive candidates through Web searches.  They’re posting jobs on these networking sites.  Some of them are also beginning to develop company profiles as well.  If we’re looking for candidates on these sites, you can bet they’re going to go searching for us.  If we don’t have some information in their preferred forums, then we’ll be seen as less interesting.  In today’s job market, that can be fatal. 

 “…like it or not, as a general proposition, employers are free to make unfair, stupid, arbitrary, and wrongheaded hiring and termination decisions, even based on false information, as long as in doing so they do not violate some specific law.”
-  George Lenard of Harris, Dowell, Fisher & Harris, LC

 The Legal Perspective 

Let’s talk about what kind of information we’re seeing and what we should and shouldn’t be using when making hiring decisions.  Keep in mind that I am not an attorney, although I have colleagues who are and advise me on this kind of thing.  What I’m going to say here is the non-legal, common-sense advice that I give my clients.   

With respect to the laws that affect us here in Oregon, nothing’s changed from your last harassment and discrimination class (if you haven’t had one lately, it’s time for a refresher).  You may not base your hiring or termination decisions on any of the following:  race, gender, national origin, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, marital status, or veteran status. 

Those laws matter regardless of where you get your information about a job candidate.  If you cruise the Web and find out more information than is strictly necessary about an applicant or employee, you have to ignore the things mentioned above.  Sometimes that’s akin to asking a jury of typical human beings to disregard an inappropriate statement made during a trial.  Still, you have to do your best.

 Too Much Information 

When it comes to things that aren’t necessarily protected by law - racy pictures, obscene language, questionable dress, etc – I caution you to remember that if it’s not related to job performance, it’s probably none of your business. 

By the same token, if I’m coaching people on career development, I always tell them that employers will look at their profiles.  Anything they post on the Web is public, like it or not.  If they’re putting it out there, then they really shouldn’t complain if it comes back to bite them later.

 Power At Our Fingertips 

On the upside of this topic, the Web offers both candidates and employers a chance to put their best qualities on display.  There are powerful opportunities for great companies and great people to find each other.  Don’t just go hunting for the negative information.  Don’t stop searching for information out of fear of lawsuits.  Having the information is fine – how you use it is what matters.  Most of the time, you’re probably going to find great and valuable information that wouldn’t otherwise come out in an interview situation. 

So, here are some tips to round out this little monologue: 

·    Mind the laws

·    Use more than one source (including good old face-to-face interaction) to make your hiring decisions

·    Remember that employees aren’t doing anything different than they ever have, it’s just more visible now

·    You might have some questionable behavior in your past that never stopped you from being great at your job

Like all good fictional superheroes, we have been given a powerful tool.  Let’s put it to good use.


Pamela Moore is the founder of Compass Human Resources, a consulting firm focused on providing personalized human resource services to small businesses.  For the past seven years, Pamela has been providing her expertise to organizations in the sustainability arena.  She co-developed and co-hosted the 2008 Green Professional’s Conference with Fluid Market Strategies.  Pamela has nearly 20 years of human resource generalist experience in a wide range of industries.  Her areas of expertise include everything from tools and systems to long-range strategic planning.  In addition to being a certified HR professional, Pamela also holds a degree in Accounting, which gives her a unique perspective on her clients’ businesses.

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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