UNFILTERED personal information is playing an increasing role in building the complete candidate picture. Research from global advisory company CEB reveals that two in five recruiters use social media to determine applicant fit with an organisation. Over half of recruiters also concede that social media sites are effective tools to recruit and reach quality candidates.

Worryingly, only a quarter of employers have a formal policy in place to recruit via social media and professional networks, which raises concerns over the introduction of unfair bias into the recruitment process.

Employers read more than your resumé

When recent figures show that application volumes have risen by 33 per cent over the past three years, it perhaps comes as little surprise that recruiters are seeking new sources to determine candidate differentiation.

While only one in 10 recruiters say social media information is critical to hiring decisions, candidates should still be wary that their photos, comments and “likes” may influence prospective employers. In fact, nearly half of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate based on content viewed in a social media profile, leading to both positive and negative re-assessments of potential hires.

When faced with the difficult challenge of distinguishing between candidates with similar qualifications and experiences, some line managers and recruiters are using social media to shortlist applicants based on their previous work history and education — but they are not limiting searches to professional networking sites.

Candidates should be aware that the lines between their professional and social selves are blurring, and they should think carefully about posting information that could prevent them from securing their dream job.

Equally, the temptation for employers to use social media to source information about candidates is strong — after all, the information is right there at their fingertips. But they should be careful — generally, social media information will tell them little about a candidate’s ability to do the job, and sifting candidates in this way could reduce perceptions of fairness of the process or even lead to claims of discrimination.

Instead, recruiters should focus on the competencies and skills needed for a particular role and measure those skills in other ways to determine their candidates’ suitability.

Candidates will have their say

Today, companies globally spend nearly a quarter of their employment branding budget on professional and social media. However, just 6 per cent of new hires used social or professional media as their primary sourcing channel.

Millennials are more likely than any generation before them to use social media to learn about an organisation. While these candidates will spend five hours or less researching employers before applying for a role, less than a third actually trust the information they receive through social channels.

Job seekers across generations place the most trust in friends and family when looking for jobs, so more traditional channels such as referral programmes and careers websites are still highly influential.

Despite poor return on investment (ROI) on social activity, most firms are doing nothing to monitor how candidates view their recruitment process or measure the impact of their hiring experience.

Worryingly, almost half of job candidates have been left with a negative view of a company following an unsuccessful application. With one in five of these applicants voicing their discontent to family and friends or complaining via social media, businesses can be left exposed to significant reputational risks.

A bad experience can be amplified easily on social networks. But with risk there is also reward: social media can help Human Resources manage the recruitment process. For instance, it is a quick way of keeping candidates updated via the company’s recruitment feed or answering questions from candidates.

With the vast majority of organisations looking to increase their use of social media in the New Year, companies should think about how to:

•   Improve the candidate experience by using social media more effectively;

•   Differentiate their employment brand through social channels, ensuring communication to the right talent;

•   Identify and develop social media champions across the business; and

•   Leverage social networks in the current workforce.