“Reading the Tabloids” vs. Sourcing

Last week, Raghav Singh wrote an article on ERE.net titled ‘Catch Me If You Can‘, where he discussed the use of online data found via social networks to make decisions on whether or not to hire and/or fire individuals. One line in his article really stood out to me, as he was discussing the task of gathering intel on potential candidates (a task that lays within our sourcing job function mostly):

“…84 percent of U.S. recruiters think it is proper to consider personal data posted online when evaluating a candidate and do online research using search engines, social networking sites, photo- and video-sharing sites, personal Web sites and blogs, Twitter, online-gaming sites, and even classifieds, and auction sites like Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, etc. What they expect to find in that last category is a mystery, but I guess you never know. Now whether all this “research” does anything to improve the quality of hires, or it’s just an excuse for voyeurism, is something we’ll likely never know.”

Whether all this research does anything to improve the quality of hires, or it’s just an excuse for voyeurism…. Ouch. However – how many times have you found yourself ‘sourcing’ via Facebook and been distracted by a funny video posted on someone’s wall, or clicked on a link to an article that looks interesting but doesn’t really have anything to do with the task at hand? I’m raising my hand… guilty, right here. How can we justify activities like this? I highly doubt we can classify viewing a silly video on someone’s wall as ‘gathering information about their personality and pass-times’. If I were managing a sourcer doing things like that, I certainly wouldn’t buy it.

By digging too deeply into the personal lives of those whom we are sourcing, are we crossing some HR or legal lines? (that’s something that I’m sure you can hop over to our sister site TLNT to get schooled on) If nothing else, we’re flipping open the social media tabloid to read the latest gossip on our prospects. My response to Raghav included this: the important thing to remember is to consider if the information you’re fishing for will help you gain the interest of the potential candidate, or improve the hiring process for everyone involved.

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So let’s talk about voyeurism… err, I mean intel gathering via social media. When have you crossed the line with peeping into the window of someone’s online life while trying to build a profile of their background to potentially recruit them? I say it’s when you’re reading up on how many cocktails they had out at dinner with the girls last night. How many cocktails did YOU have last night? Think about that one. When you’ve found enough information to make a good case for pursuing someone with initial outreach, stop there. Start a new search for a new person at that time, no matter how temping their latest Twitpic update might be. If you must, find a tidbit of information about the individual that you can reference in your initial outreach that shows them you tried to ‘get to know them’ in your research. This probably doesn’t include asking how they enjoyed seeing the new Twilight movie with their spouse or significant other last night, based on a Twitter update. Creepy!

So, what are your thoughts? Have you found yourself in that place where you know you crossed the line? When do you think you’ve switched over from sourcing to reading the social media tabloids? Do you have any weird stories about digging too deep? (I do & I’ll share them if you do!) Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Amybeth Quinn began her career in sourcing working within the agency world as an Internet Researcher. Since 2002, she has worked in both agency and corporate sourcing and recruiting roles as both individual contributor and manager, and also served previously as the editor of The Fordyce Letter, FordyceLetter.com and SourceCon.com, with ERE Media. These days she's working on some super cool market intelligence and data analytics projects. You can connect with her on Twitter at @researchgoddess.

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