Worldwide, 3.2 billion of your closest friends use social media. As social media use has exploded, so has your opportunity to investigate and recruit employees. Not surprisingly, the growth of social media use far exceeds the pace of laws regarding employers, employees, hiring, and recruiting. We’ve all read social media stories that landed a business in a legal quagmire. So, should you avoid social media in the quest for your next hire?
Let’s first explore how companies use social media in the talent acquisition process. Then we’ll navigate around a few landmines that could spell disaster.
Why Social Media? Attract and Inform.
Don’t be nervous about using social media when recruiting your next hire. Savvy executives understand this: There has NEVER been a more robust landscape to connect with the ideal candidate! They’re using the abundance of the social media world to attract potential Rockstars. How are they doing it?
Companies identify and source potential candidates by announcing open positions on social media. Yes, you can even use targeted advertising to narrow the field of qualified candidates. What do you target? Refer to our “ideal candidate profile” and the Rockstar behaviors you identified from Chapter 2 of this Recruit to Win series.
And remember that social media is the place where people . . . socialize! Do you have a recruitment plan that includes networking events, traditional job fairs, and/or an employee referral plan? Use Social media to connect, and invite candidates to meet in person.
Aside from attracting potential talent, you can also use social media to inform YOURSELF and screen out possible misfits for an open position. LinkedIn profiles show professional affiliations, and oftentimes, specific accreditations. If they write or respond to blogs, you can see the candidate’s written communication skills. Social media is an easy place to attract, but also to screen for potential hires. It’s also an easy place to step onto a legal landmine. How do you navigate safely? First, let’s talk about the obvious: Illegal practices. [Sadly, some illegal practices are far from obvious.]
Federal laws prohibit discrimination against any protected class. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of:
- Gender (including pregnancy)
- National origin and citizenship
- Age (40 and over)
- Disability (including perceived disability)
- Genetic information
- Veterans, active-duty military service members, or individuals who have applied to the uniformed services.
Beware: Compliance with federal laws does not guarantee your safety! Most states also have their own anti-discrimination laws that expand beyond the above list. Some states, for example, consider sexual orientation, marital status, and smokers (and more) a protected class. Familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal laws to avoid discrimination claims. Better yet—seek the guidance of legal counsel before your next job posting.
Most companies that LOSE discrimination claims are not intentionally discriminating! As you utilize social media to attract more attention to your job openings, you’re also attracting more possibilities for unintentional (though illegal) discrimination. In legal terms, it’s the difference between Disparate Treatment and Disparate Impact. Disparate Treatment intentionally discriminates against a certain protected class. [Limiting a job to only a certain gender, race, age, etc.] Most complaints, however, arise from Disparate Impact: when a neutral-appearing policy or practice actually has a discriminatory impact on a protected class.
“Rightfully nervous, John Doe sat in my office. Seemingly innocuous (in his mind), his recent job posting on social media landed him in my office . . . .”
John Doe (as we renamed her – or is it him?) operates a multi-location restaurant group. As with most restaurants today, John needed more kitchen staff and his HR Director posted a job announcement on the company Facebook page. In the announcement, the company asked for “young, hungry” line cooks to apply. The “hungry” part was clever, especially for recruiting line cooks; but, the inclusion of “young” went too far. Being young is not a job requirement for preparing ingredients and assembling dishes. And a much older applicant (older meaning 40 plus years of age older) complained. With the threat of a lawsuit looming, the owner/operator found himself calling the attorney.
The moral of the story? Discrimination is much more nuanced than most business owners understand. You run your business; let legal counsel protect you from threats beyond your horizon.