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A recently released survey found that 47 percent of U.S. adults use social networking sites—up from 26 percent in 2008. Experts say that rise has implications for human resource professionals who must be careful that they do not violate regulations when recruiting candidates.
Highlights from the survey released in June 2011 by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project include the following:
Nearly twice as many men (63 percent) as women (37 percent) use LinkedIn, and most users of that site have at least one college degree.
The average age of social networking site adult users has increased from 33 to 38 since 2010.
More than half of social networking site adult users are over the age of 35.
About 85 percent of LinkedIn users and 78 percent of Facebook users are white.
“Facebook has become the dominant social networking platform of both number of users and frequency of use, and it is striking to note that the makeup of the population is changing,” said Lauren Sessions Goulet, co-author of the report. “We also found interesting variation in the characteristics of users across different social networking sites. People pick the platforms which best meet their social and professional needs.”
Hiring managers are taking advantage of the increased usage. However, increased scrutiny is required when recruiting from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn.
“Often, without knowing it, companies violate a host of laws when they use social media sources to recruit top talent, or when they use these sites to collect information about potential candidates,” said David P. Jones, former global head of human resources consulting with Aon Consulting Worldwide.
Jones has served as an expert witness in litigation settings involving equal employment opportunity and hiring compliance.
While Jones advises hiring managers to use technologies such as social networks to help recruit and screen candidates, he adds that they must remain careful as well.
“As in other areas of a business, technology brings a faster/better/cheaper package of payoffs to recruiting and hiring,” Jones said. “Just be careful, though, that how you use it doesn’t bring faster/bigger/more-expensive legal challenges.”
Jones advises on some of the pitfalls:
Monitor “what your Internet searches or social networking reviews capture. Pulling information off Facebook, LinkedIn or other sites … outside what the job demands can lay the foundation for a candidate claiming they were passed over because someone made a wrong interpretation about their personal lifestyle information.”
“If you purchase Internet-scraped information about candidates, be careful. Did you know that doing this makes you subject to the federal government’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)?”
“If a vendor tells you their recruiting or screening technology is legal, get the details. Review your overall recruiting and hiring program to find potential pitfalls, too. There are new laws, regulations and court decisions coming down all the time.”
Jones, author of Million Dollar Hire: Build Your Bottom Line, One Employee at a Time (Jossey-Bass, 2011), endorses the maxim “In all things, moderation.”
“The Internet and technology have reinvented how the best companies find the best talent,” he said. “Drawing a payoff from making great hiring decisions always brings the risk of legal challenge. Setting up the right controls and training the people who use the technology is the best way to reduce [those risks].”
Dan Huntley is a freelance reporter based in Charlotte, N.C.
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