Take 2: Recruiting, Social Networks and Discrimination, Oh My!

Jessica Lee Crystal Peterson, Recruiting, Social Media, Social Recruiting

Lots of folks have had lots to say about a Workforce article where lawyers discussed the legal pitfalls (gasp!) of recruiting through social networks. Their points are valid: a good recruiter is not sourcing just from social media networks. A good recruiter knows where his/her audience is and goes to find them. Social networks are another tool in your tool belt, not the entire belt. 

I agree. Really, I do. There’s a ‘but’ coming though, you knew that, right? Okay, I agree, but, with the
increase of HR pros, recruiters and hiring managers checking out the social media profiles of candidates, the potential for discrimination also increases. I believe that the advances in social media and our ability to connect with more and more people could be causing a retreat to a more discriminatory time. 

I’m not talking about the deliberate and conscious act of discrimination. And yes, it still happens today. And yes, we all know it’s illegal. I’m talking about the subconscious discrimination that could occur. You know, our gut level reaction to folks based on the color of their skin, accent, disability, status. Carol Miaskoff, Assistant Legal Counsel with the U.S. EEOC, talked about this in her recent presentation at the ERE Fall Expo. You can check out her presentation here.

Think about it. There’s blog post after blog post advising candidates to connect, share, build their brand, show their personality. Be authentically you. But how much is too much? Could a candidate’s minority status or interests cause others to gain a false perception of them? How do we know that profile pictures, tweets, or status updates are not manifesting any preconceived notions of a particular culture? There’s not a lot of talk about these issues, and it’s much harder to prove, but let’s not think for a minute that it could not happen. Carol Miaskoff says in her presentation, and I agree with her, “Discrimination is, despite our progress, a real concern and a reality today.”

From an HR/Recruiting perspective, we have to be mindful of what could happen with the enormous amounts of information available to us on these candidates. What are we doing to make sure we get past any chance of subconscious discrimination within our organizations? Do we have mechanisms in place to get past those gut level reactions? Are we doing our jobs and presenting the best qualified candidates, regardless of race/ethnicity? Have we developed the trust needed with our leaders/hiring managers, and do they know that we would not present a candidate if they were not qualified? Do we have enough of a voice within our companies that enables us to push back, and bring a little fire to the situation when we feel that something is just not right? Like the hiring manager who uses the “I can’t put my finger on it” or “They’re just not a good fit” reasons. Do you have enough fire power to push back, probe and get specifics? 

I’m sure you’re saying that this doesn’t happen in your organization. Really? How do you know? What are you doing to ensure that, with the increase in social media usage, good candidates are not being passed over based on any discriminatory issue?  

The end result should be that we place the very best candidate, right? So let’s be real about this issue and not shove it under a rug. Let’s take the steps to make sure that it’s not happening on our watch.

Editor’s Note: Crystal Peterson is the Chief People Officer & Senior Vice President of HR at Doe-Anderson, one of the Midwest’s most recognized advertising agencies – and count her as a driving force for making Doe a great place to work. In her spare time… well, she doesn’t have spare time. But when she can find a minute to breathe outside of the world of Doe, Crystal is a stage mom mom and wife, and lives the dream in Louisville, Kentucky. Crystal can also be found blogging at CrissCrossed.