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Ethics in Social Network Recruitment and Selection

In this section we discuss the advantages of using social media websites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, in the recruitment and selection process. We then address some critical ethical aspects that should be taken into consideration when using those tools.

Social networks as a tool for recruitment and selection

Social networks (SNs) have become a vital part of a world in which information and resources flow constantly. They are in our everyday life and are growing. As we shall see, the business area is no exception.

Pew Research Center (2013) found that in 2005 only 8% of internet users were using SNs. By contrast, SN usage by adults in 2013 was up to 67%. As a consequence of the accelerating growth of these platforms, a growing number of organizations see online recruitment as an additional resource to take into consideration (Bartram, 2000). In fact, since the beginning of the century, as a strategy to increase the probability of finding the right candidate (Verhoeven & Williams, 2008), organizations have started to devote time to establishing a contact network through SNs, either to replace or in addition to traditional routes, such as advertising job opportunities in newspapers (Faroldi, 2007; Sameen & Cornelius, 2013).

SNs allow greater interaction between companies and candidates, facilitating the job hunting (Zhitomirsky-Geffet & Bratspiess, 2015) and selection processes (Capelli, 2001). As a result, HR professionals have come to see the rise of SNs as an opportunity to redefine recruitment and the way they find talent (Sambhi, 2009). Nonetheless, it is important to bear in mind that SNs are not a substitute for the recruitment process itself. Cappelli (2001) emphasizes that this tool should complement the recruitment process, since there are still some variables that recruiters will only be able to assess in personal contact by conducting interviews and using other validated assessment methods.

Through SNs it is now possible to have a closer relationship between companies and candidates (Mitter & Orlandini, 2005), by sharing interests, resources and information among all those involved (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Some authors have described the advantages of this type of recruitment for companies and recruiters. These include the cost-effectiveness of the method (Breaugh, 2008; Peretti, 2007; Walsh & Kleiner, 1990); the ability of organizations to attract different candidates compared to traditional recruitment methods carrying out active and passive recruitment (Dutta, 2014; Peretti, 2007); the ability to segment candidates more finely (Dutta, 2014; Peretti, 2007) and to review different candidates’ experience to more precisely find the right fit (Mitter & Orlandini, 2005).

Zall (2000) claims that hiring via SNs is less time-consuming than traditional recruitment and selection methods. Studies conducted in the US concluded that the recruitment process dropped from 32 days or more using traditional methods to 16 days using internet recruitment (Burt, 2004; Veger, 2006; Zall, 2000). Furthermore, SNs not only help job seekers but also give hiring managers and recruiters access to high-quality but passive job applicants (i.e., those who are currently employed and not searching for a new position but may switch job if the opportunity and offer are attractive; Joos, 2008). Hence, SNs provide a platform for employers to convert passive candidates into job applicants.

But recruiters are not the only ones enjoying the benefits of SNs. Advantages were also pointed out for the candidates. According to Peretti (2007), they offered candidates three benefits:

  • 1 Their professional and personal information is available globally, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • 2 Job seekers can look for job opportunities at any time, anywhere in the world.
  • 3 They receive, more directly, job opportunities that best fit their profile and motivations.

Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn have started to become an important resource for job seekers, providing them the opportunity to advertise their skills and accomplishments, and promote their value in the market (McFadden, 2014).

Launched in 2003, LinkedIn has more than 300 million members worldwide (Novet, 2015). Its mission is to help career professionals succeed through networking opportunities, job listings, news and insights from other professionals in the field.

Surveys carried out by the Society for Human Resource Management, the US body for HR professionals, reveal that 77% of companies studied used SNs to recruit applicants, rising from 56% in 2011 and a mere 34% in 2008 (Segal, 2014). As we have seen in previous sections this is a particularly common practice in industries that deal with sensitive information or need a rapid response from the market, which therefore resort frequently to this type of direct recruitment.

According to the literature, we can summarize some of the advantages of using SN tools in the recruitment and selection process (Table 6.2).

Table 6.2 Advantages of using SNs in the recruitment and selection process.






Employers feel they have a responsibility to conduct online checks in order to protect themselves from negligent hiring (Clark & Roberts, 2010; Elzweig & Peeples, 2009; Slovensky & Ross, 2012).



Information on SNs may provide more honest information than traditional cover letters and CVs, which are compiled to highlight a person’s best characteristics. It has also been suggested that screening SNs may be more cost-effective in the early stages of the selection process than the cost of an extensive background check (Slovensky & Ross, 2012).

Correlation to personal characteristics

Screening an applicant’s SN profile may also provide a ‘big picture’ of the applicant in order to determine fit with a company or job (Bottomly, 2011). Kluemper and Rosen (2009) found evidence supporting the validity of using SN information to determine personality, intelligence and global performance.

Influence on hiring decisions

Bohnert and Ross (2010) suggest that SN information does influence how an applicant is evaluated and can influence hiring decisions, such as wage offered and whether the applicant receives a job offer or not. It may also reinforce initial impressions or decisions based on other information, such as a cover letter or resume (Elzweig & Peeples, 2009; Slovensky & Ross, 2012).

Despite the undeniable advantages of using SNs in the recruitment process, this comes with added ethical implications which are discussed in the next section.

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