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Recent research reports reveal a substantial increase in the use of social interactive networks by hiring managers in obtaining information about job applicants and screening them for various jobs. A survey carried out by CareerBuilder.com in 2009 revealed that about 45% of over 2600 managers admitted using social networking sites to obtain information used in screening various job applicants, an increase from 22% in the previous year. Facebook forms one such social networking site known as the most popular worldwide. Despite the increased use of this screening method, most searches dwell heavily on social implications of site membership and the content shared by subscribers without paying attention to the practical and legal implications of employers using this method and the general validity of such methods. This article addresses the use of social networks in the hiring process, its advantages, and potential negative effects of misusing this process, validation, and legal issues associated with this method and recommendations for future research of using social network sites in making hiring decisions.

According to the author of the article, users of social network sites rate Facebook as the most popular social platform supporting over 500 million active users every 30 days. Facebook and other social networking sites allow anyone to create a personal account within the domain of these systems. One then establishes a list of people, usually called friends, to share a connection. The user can then view and navigate through their list of connections within the platform and those of others. The user is enabled to include bibliographic information, pictures, videos, public or private messages within the site. The profile owner possesses control over the information shared on the platform with the freedom to modify the security settings as desired to ensure only specific information is accessed by everyone on the site.

The rapid development of social network sites prompts some managers to revert to the sites in obtaining additional information about applicants that that might be missing in their resumes. This practice, according to the author, serves a number of benefits to the organizations. Such benefits include, the ability to search information about candidates at minimal costs giving even smaller businesses an opportunity to carry out that exercise. Information obtained on SNSs provides further exhibit on the veracity of information availed in the resume. Further to this, employers get access to additional information helping them draw conclusions on behaviour and character of the candidate that is hard to economically obtain through traditional approaches. Managers then draw up a decision based on such information to either hire a candidate or not consider him/her.

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Despite the numerous benefits that SNS provides to organizations, the author argues that this method needs special legal and ethical considerations. The author of the article argues that informal SNS searches pose several risks such as perceived intrusion of applicant’s privacy, inadequate clearly identified approach used in the screening process and the absence of data to ascertain if the data obtained through SNS searches is relevant for the specified job. The variability of the information available on social sites poses another challenge. The information shared on social sites is subject to distortion either by social desirability or advanced levels of self-monitoring. This, to my belief forms the author’s strength for this argument.

The information shared on the website is searchable, and it does not constitute an invasion of privacy. It is upon the user to maintain the privacy settings of the profile. However, hiring firms need to enact laws that do not violate someone’s privacy during hiring. Some companies in the city of Bozeman required applicants to provide all the current and former user names and passwords for scrutiny by the employers. This move amounts to invasion of applicants’ privacy and needs address. Another challenge facing the SNS search method is the uncertainty in the rationale used to arrive at a decision. It is difficult to establish the extent to which the information obtained from social sites is relevant to the job description under consideration. In addition, there exists no federal law supporting screening decisions of applicants based on SNS data. Through this move, hiring managers stand a risk of committing fundamental attribution error. This arises when information obtained from SNS becomes construed to be a reflection of the person irrespective of the context of that information. The author advances a sample photo of a female applicant taken while lying on the floor receiving misconception of alcoholism without considering the context of the picture. Could be the person was sleepy or lying on the floor as a result of a medical condition. That far still, the person in question could have undergone a rehabilitation process and is no longer a drunkard. To that extent, information from social sites possesses high likelihood of causing attribution error.

By my understanding, the above highlighted points indicate the risks that managers possess once they adopt the Social Networking Site rationale in formulating decisions regarding hiring. The author out rightly explains all the possible misunderstandings that likely arise when managers opt to use the SNS to establish the applicants’ personal lives. This provides every reader with an insight to think deeper on the numerous challenges that his method of scrutiny poses to managers.

The author advances further to postulate the measures for adoption in trying to rationalise this process of scrutiny. The author recommends that the managers need to come up with a well documented evidence for validity of the information obtained from social sites. This helps reduce the perception of discrimination attributed to an informal interview and undocumented evidence. In addition, employees need to adopt a policy that clearly stipulates all the information looked for in a candidates’ social profile that are relevant for a particular job. A particular job requires a detailed list of attributes that are searched for in the candidates’ profile. This helps in ensuring that the SNS searches are relevant with given job description.

Benefits of Using SNS in Hiring

  • Helps obtain additional information about candidates at minimal costs
  • Helps employer compare information given in resumes with that obtained in these social sites
  • Such information helps employers draw conclusion on behaviour and qualities of various candidates.

Risks of Deploying SNS in Hiring Process

  • Likelihood of invading the privacy of candidates
  • Uncertainty in the rationale used to make decisions
  • Potential breach of law regarding hiring
  • Fundamental attribution error when information is understood out of context 

Recommendations for Rationalising the Process of Scrutiny

  • Advance satisfactory means of establishing validity of the obtained information
  • Postulate elaborate policy on how to link specific attributes obtained on social sites with the job description in consideration.

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