Social media in the recruitment process – a chance or a threat?
In the light of constant technological progress, one can risk saying that the percentage of people who have not had contact with the media as the channel of information is almost non- existent. When analysing the usage of the media as a tool for communication in Poland, it should be affirmed that the media determine the way people live and function in society. Since they provide information, the media impact interpersonal and social relationships, form tendencies, as well as give a lot of opportunities to monitor people as individuals. According to the report „Digital in 2017 Global Overview” prepared by We Are Social and Hootsuite, the number of currently active users of social media totals 2.789 billion, including 2.549 billion users of mobile devices. On a global level, Poland is on the 26th place when it comes to using social media, which means that 39% of the citizens actively uses them. Therefore, according to the report, Poland’s result is 2% above the average. It is worth to note that in the next years, the tendency to use social media in the world and in Poland may rise, which is indicated by the report findings – compared to the last year, there was a 21% rise (SildeShare, et. al. 2017).
Therefore, since a person can have profiles and leave their traces on the Internet, they can also be verified for different reasons by various entities. For example, in the recruitment process the candidates may be verified in order to determine the credibility of their application documents.
Thus, there arises a question: do the employers in Poland, who use the opportunity to verify the candidate in the recruitment process, via social networks, without the knowledge of the candidate – violate the right to privacy in view of the fact that the applicant created an account on said social network of their own volition?
However, to be able to answer this question, it is vital to clarify the concept of “social media”. As the name suggests, the term consists of two words (Business Dictionary et. al 2017) “Media” can, in general, be defined as an information carrier, thus, it is a certain means of transmission, a tool which preserves and conveys information. There are two elementary functions of the media (Networked Digital et. al 2017):
a) informative – all the current affairs which show and describe the world through various means, e.g. debates, comments, opinions.
b) entertainment – focuses primarily on providing entertainment for the consumers.
There also exists the concept of “old” and “new” media. “Old”, or “traditional” media is a term for mass media such as the radio, television. On the other hand, social media, as distinct from mass media, are just “means of social communication”. They can be used to communicate on any scale. The consumer/recipient – the user has the opportunity to commence a discussion, a dialogue, or interact with other users, therefore mass media are not only a form of one-sided narration (Networked Digital et. al 2017). The term “social media” relates to widely understood online media and mobile technology which allow to communicate with other entities. The main advantage of social media is essentially their unlimited options for communicating without territorial and spacial restrictions, as well as the general availability of this medium of communication (Eszkola et. al 2017). While interacting via social media we can almost instantly express an opinion on a particular topic and receive an answer from another user or entity equally fast. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that the term “entity” signifies a company or another institution operating in a particular sector.
The most prevalent types of social media are surely social networks such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Polish Goldenline. It is worth mentioning that nowadays, social networks are used professionally, to create a professional image, and for networking. Glaring examples of such usage of social networks are: LinkedIn, Goldenline, or Facebook. Other popular kinds of social media are the so-called content media (YouTube, Vimeo), microblogs (Twitter, Blip), or Internet forums (Kafeteria.pl, Gazeta.pl) (Eszkola et. al 2017). More divisions related to those acknowledged here arise along with the development of social media, for instance for: mobile applications, Wiki websites, Multimedia Home Platforms (Bachnik, Szumniak – Samolej 2015:14) however, because of the subject area of this work, the author restricted herself to show only those mentioned earlier.
In the 21st century, due to the constant progress in the field of electronic and mobile usage, methods of the verification process for candidates for jobs, as well as recruitment and selection solutions, are undergoing changes. Candidates’ approach to work and employers is also changing. A few years ago, there was a higher percentage of candidates actively looking for jobs using traditional methods in Poland, such as: browsing offers in papers or on the Internet, or sending applications directly to the companies. Then, it was rather the so-called passive recruitment, or Recruitment 1.0. Companies looking for employees limited themselves to posting job offers. The candidate had to be committed in order to get a job. It
cannot be said that Recruitment 1.0. has been supplanted. Instead, it has been replaced by the increasingly advanced types of recruitment, from Recruitment 2.0., where the companies actively look for candidates via social media (AtmanCo, et. al 2017), to Recruitment 5.0. functioning in highly specialised businesses (eGospodarka.pl, et. al 2017).
Despite more advanced recruitment solutions, the model of Recruitment 2.0. is still popular and used by Polish businesses, for it is widely available, does not generate more expenses, as well as it allows for a fast verification of the candidate’s profile and confronts it with the expectations of the employer.
Nowadays, such social networks as LinkedIn, Goldenline, and Facebook have a good reputation among the recruiters. The first two sites are of strictly business/professional nature. LinkedIn and its Polish version – Goldenline, are sites focusing on building and expanding a circle of friends-specialists from the same or similar industry, and creating a professional image consciously. As W. Breithbarth explains, the goal is not to acquire the largest possible number of friends (as in the case of Facebook), but to interact with people who we see as “trusted professionals” (Breithbarth 2013). When it comes to Facebook, it was initially seen as a typical international social network focusing on expanding the circle of friends from school, work, neighbourhood. Currently, it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, social network, as it “eradicated” other networks such as MySpace (Bailyn 2012) or Polish NaszaKlasa.pl. Facebook is also gaining considerable importance as a “tool” used in the recruitment process, or as E. Bailyn mentioned it in his book, as a business social networking service..
In the case of business (industry) networks, it is obvious that the users will be people whose main goal is networking and the opportunity to establish business relationships or to present their professional profile (acquiring business contacts, finding a job/an employee). Nonetheless, using social networks, especially Facebook, as a tool for recruitment raises a lot of doubts and controversy. Therefore, it should be examined: do the employers who use the opportunity to verify the candidate via social networks during the recruitment process, unbeknown to the applicant, violate the candidate’s right to privacy, or do they have full rights to such verification since the candidate created an account of their own volition?
Prom the point of view of potential applicants, without a doubt, there is a possibility to agree with the view that using business social networking services such as LinkedIn, or its Polish counterparts: Goldenline, Profeo, the user consciously creates their image online. It should not be surprising that, especially in the case of recruiting for a higher or a key position, the employers reach for any possible source of surveillance, including social networks to which
the potential future employee belongs. It is worth to remember that it is possible to to make a name for yourself not only on business networks, but also on strictly social networks, such as Facebook. The use of Facebook as a recruitment tool is definitively rising. Through Facebook pages “looking for employees/looking for employers” or “praca Job”, both sides can easily find interesting job offers or candidates. When it comes to Facebook and other similar sites, what works is also “recommending”, when we ourselves are not interested in a particular offer but have friends whom we can recommend.
For many international and Polish companies, social networks are a chance to gain popularity because by advertising on the previously mentioned site (the standard version is for free) they can easily approach interested audience. Such actions as clicking “Like” on a particular post can cause a domino effect, as one click will make that particular post (information about recruitment for a position, or a company advertisement) available for friends of the person concerned, and through more likes, forward the post to other people.
Despite the above-named advantages of using social networks for recruiting and establishing a brand, risks stemming from this method cannot be overlooked. Unfortunately, businesses relatively often violate privacy while looking for a candidate with the perfect image. According to the Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of November 4, 1950 (Dz. U. 1993 No 61, item. 284), “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home, and his correspondence”. Then, in Article 10 of the said act, the right to freedom of expression and opinions was implemented – therefore, every user has the right to comment on any post, photo, or express an opinion on a particular topic that is, for example, conflicting with the opinion of the company they apply to. Nonetheless, the company has the right to reject the applicant, on condition that it is not an act of discrimination. In the Polish law, the right to privacy was particularly voiced in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of April 2, 1997 (Dz. U. 1997 No 78, item. 483) and The Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data (Dz. U. 2016 No 0, item. 922). Another threat of social media is that there is less of a need for the candidate to actively look for a job. Nowadays, it can be seen that the recruiters more often take active part in finding candidates in order to gain employees and meet their expectations. In the future, this attitude may lead to complete passiveness of the candidates and higher costs and efforts of the employers.
On the contrary, it is worth noticing that social networks such as Facebook are a relatively good solution when it comes to looking for physical workers or employees on lower positions. Furthermore, business networks such as LinkedIn (alternatively, Goldenline or
Profeo in Poland) have a better opportunity for a selection within a particular industry, and while looking for employees with higher qualifications, it is definitely easier to find them via strictly business networks.
In conclusion, it cannot be fully confirmed whether the fact that social media’s gradual interference in the recruitment process increases, is a chance or a threat. On one hand, social media reduce the distance, the barrier between the company and a potential employee. New ways of reaching candidates show up, via social networks or other tools, such as Instagram or YouTube. Reduced distance equals saving time on getting through to a particular candidate/employer and a higher chance to build an employee/employer – company relationship. On the other hand, there still exist business networks, and their obvious purpose is to build business relationships, establish brands, and make it easier for the applicants and employers to find an ideal company or an employer for a particular industry. On the contrary, social networks are used for personal reasons, to contact friends. Permeating and combining social and business networks leads to disturbing the work – life balance concept and a misuse by the employers. It is worth to remember that despite legal protection, the content posted by users on websites and forums of various kind is also used by other entities for various reasons. In view of the foregoing, it seems that regardless of the occupational status and the position, the key to safety is to share information and personal content in moderation. When making posts on social networks, one must be aware of the risk that the posts may be monitored.
- AtmanCo (2017) Recruiting 2.0: What is it About and How to Use it? <https://atmanco.com/blog/hiring/recruiting-2-0-what-is-about-how-to-use/> [date of access: 29.04.2017]
- Bachnik K., Szumniak – Samolej J. (2015) Potencjał biznesowy mediów społecznościowych, Warszawa: Poltext.
- Bailyn E. (2012) Outsmarting Social Media: Profiting in the Age of Friendship Marketing, Copyright by Pearson Education, Inc.
- Breithbarth W. (2013) The Powder Formula for LinkedIn Success (Second Edition – Entirely Revised): Kick-start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search, Copyright by Wayne Breithbarth.
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- Konwencja o Ochronie Praw Człowieka i Podstawowych Wolności z dnia 4 listopada 1950 r., Dz. U. 1993 No. 61, item 284.
- Konstytucja Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej z dnia 2 kwietnia 1997 r., Dz. U. 1997 No. 78, item 483.
3. Ustawa o Ochronie Danych Osobowych z dnia 29 sierpnia 1997 r., Dz. U. 2016 No. 0, item 922.
Ilustracja: Nick Gatens