Can social networking sites be recruitment tools?

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 18 April 2008



Parker, M. (2008), "Can social networking sites be recruitment tools?", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 7 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Can social networking sites be recruitment tools?

Article Type: Q&A From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 3.

Leading industry experts answer your strategic HR queries

Matthew Parker is based at StepStone.

This past year has seen the number of people on social networking sites around the globe explode. Groups and networks have been created for virtually every profession, hobby and institution imaginable and, at present, this trend shows no sign of abating. Recent research from networking site Viadeo shows just how popular the internet has become as a recruitment tool. One in five of the 600 employers it questioned admitted to finding information on potential employees on the web and 59 percent said it influenced their decision-making. A quarter of HR decision-makers have actually rejected candidates because of the personal information they discovered online (Viadeo, 2007).

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Viadeo, undoubtedly provide a great source of recruitment information but companies must make sure that they use these sites responsibly and, more importantly, legally, when tapping into them as a source of potential future employees. With so much personal information floating around the internet, it is incredibly tempting for any hiring organization to use social networking sites to vet potential job candidates. Only those people with the strictest privacy settings can prevent personal information such as past and current employers, interests and even those party photos from last Friday being viewed by millions of people, including those who may wish to employ them in the future. The fact that this information is often freely available does not, however, mean that employers are free to make use of it.

Many organizations unintentionally breach legislation, such as the Data Protection Act in the UK, because they have not been given permission from the profile user to look at or use their information online. The fact that low privacy settings have allowed them access to the information in the first place has no bearing; making decisions based on the information they find without permission would, for example, be a breach of the Data Protection Act. So, how can organizations legally harness the undeniable power of social media?

Harnessing the power of social media

An acceptable way to use social networking sites legally and responsibly could be to use them to encourage potential employees to come to you. For example, a number of StepStone’s clients, including professional services firms Pricewaterhouse Coopers and KPMG and the Royal Bank of Scotland, are using social networking sites at various different points in the recruitment process to help candidates reach out to them. A good example of this has been when organizations set up Facebook groups for university students and interns who have an interest in working with them in the future. Once these groups have been created, potential candidates can be made aware of jobs and opportunities within the organization through specially created blogs and forums. This is also a great way of allowing potential candidates to network with existing employees already working at the company.

An alternative approach would involve linking up the talent pools created on the networking sites to the company’s e-recruitment portal. This enables organizations to directly outreach to candidates with specific job opportunities, to gather CVs and other personal data with the candidate’s permission, and to use them to search for the best candidates and link them to the most appropriate positions without compromising privacy. E-recruitment specialists have complete and up-to-date knowledge of data protection laws, to make sure that they constantly have all of the correct policies and procedures in place. This requires that they remain in constant contact with all of the online candidates, making sure that they agree to all of the information that is available about them online and they are happy with how this data is being distributed. There is nothing “unintentional” about the data that is shared between candidate and employer, making this online recruitment process completely above board and legal.

HR staff should view social media sites as channels for building pools of talent and employer brand, rather than free online databases for evaluating candidates. A strategic approach to harnessing social media will help the business attract the candidates it desires by default, and within the law.

About the author

Matthew Parker is group managing director of StepStone Solutions, a provider of on-demand talent management solutions. He joined StepStone in July 2003 with over 15 years experience in IT sales and general management. Immediately prior to joining StepStone, he worked at e-recruitment specialist i-GRasp where he carried European sales management responsibilities, as well as leading the company’s partner program. In his earlier career, Parker spent several years in sales and general management roles at Copysprint, TNT and Canon. Matthew Parker can be contacted at:

Pose your questions

Please send your HR queries to in an email marked HR Question (100 words max). If you would like to suggest an expert to answer your query, please include relevant contact details where possible.


Viadeo (2007), “Viadeo research report”, March, available at: www.viadeointhenews. com/english/press/view.asp?id=1&pressid=22

Related articles