Social Sourcing And Boundaries

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Mar 28, 2012
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

In case you’ve been in a cave the past week, you’ve probably heard of this story: man applies for job, goes to an interview and is asked for his Facebook login information. Outrage ensues.

Of course, this isn’t a new story. Back in the wild days of 2009, Bozeman, Montana asked for all of your social media logins and passwords with your job application (they suspended the practice shortly after it was publicized).

It got my thinking about how sourcing via social media fit into this entire conversation. For those who use social media to source candidates, there’s probably a boundary for how far is too far. The problem is, no one agrees about where that boundary actually lies.

Public, job related information

If you’re like most sourcers, you are probably searching information that is public or that which can be obtained through legitimate databases. Deep Google searches and the like don’t result in a password being in the way of the information you need. And generally, searches are done to unearth connections between people and certain needed skill sets. On occasion, that might lead you to a profile with personal information on the initial search.

What seems to be more frequent is that after you’ve found a name, you start looking for ways to connect with the person and that’s where you start to get caught with some personal information. How do you handle it? There are two schools of thought.

If it’s not work, it’s not relevant

There’s a clear line in the sand: is the information directly related to the work they are doing? If so, you can use it. If not, you ignore it. End of story.

There are some great reasons behind this. For one, mistaken identity happens all of the time with social media. False information gets posted. Information gets posted that wasn’t ever supposed to be public. And if you have a common name, there can be mistakes there as well.

For those who make the handoff to a recruiter or hiring manager, it is easy: give them name, contact info and business background. Let HR and those further down the line deal with that if it even matters.

This may seem to be the safe way to go but there is another side of it.

If there is anything strange, you should pass on the information

If you find information in your search that could be an issue (say illegal activities or evidence of violent behavior), it might be safer to pass on this information if you stumble across it. If a person were to get violent at work and you had evidence during the hiring process that it was a possibility, perhaps there’s a liability issue.

If your company makes a habit of searching social profiles anyway, you might as well just bring out anything that could be even remotely relevant to the job. You could save the company time and money by doing so and eliminating bad fit candidates early.

The third way: a third party

Neither one of these sound right. Especially for a sourcer who is focused on finding highly valued, relevant people for high need positions, having to parse through social information and make that determination seems a bit obtuse in comparison to everything else a sourcer has to consider.

But ignoring critical information found, especially when it could be a possible liability, makes little sense as well. And while it might not involve getting Facebook passwords, certainly publicly available, verifiable information should be considered.

The ideal is using a third party to add some perspective is probably best. Being able to pass on information to a third party, say a background screening company or an internal HR team that has no influence in the hiring decision to make a consistent determination.

Of course, to be able to do that, you have to get the person’s permission. That means any evaluation is going to be handled outside of the purview of a sourcer’s role.

Until you’re at that point, you still have to ask yourself where you stand and what your boundaries truly are. And if they differ from your employers perspective, how do you reconcile that?

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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