“Social Snooping” for recruitment – Intrusive? or Routine?

A recent article on the use of algorithms for recruitment caught my eye. The article discusses the successes and limitations of such algorithms for identifying potential recruits. For example, previous studies have shown that Facebook “is a total failure for recruitment” (as the article quotes). The research shows that “personality traits are less related to job performance than ability tests or structured interviews”.

Coincidentally, there was an animated discussion in our small (but very vocal and opinionated team!) about whether this constituted an infringement on privacy or not. The dominant opinion seemed to be that while people would have no issues with HR professionals or computer algorithms trawling through their LinkedIn profiles (and would probably want them to) , they would be seriously offended if the same was carried out on their Facebook, and to a lesser extent, their Twitter profiles. “Snooping” was a word I heard thrown around rather derisively by some rather stern looking team members. I felt for a moment, as if I was a somewhat degraded worm that had wandered unsuspectingly into their salad!

“Why wouldn’t you be offended by people ‘snooping’ through your LinkedIn profiles?”, I asked.

“Because we know that LinkedIn is a site for our professional selves and anyway all of us project the desired image on LinkedIn. On Facebook and Twitter, we would want to be ourselves”, they said.

“All, well and good, but wouldn’t that be precisely the reason why HR professionals would want to look at various social media sites to look at the “cultural” fit to the organization? An accomplished and glossy LinkedIn profile might well camouflage a socially insensitive person”, I said.

“Be that as it may! We would be extremely offended by anyone snooping through our social media profiles”, was the unanimous response.

“What about Google then?”, I asked. “Don’t they trawl through our emails and send completely superfluous ads our way?”

“They don’t really use that data to judge us”, they said, “..at least as far as I know”, one of them finished.

As you can see, while it is rational to think that since Google and Facebook trawl through our profiles and emails to place ads on our pages, it would be quite OK for others to do the same, most often rationality and logic loses out to the emotional in all of us. More importantly, the emotional response to using social media to profile candidates seems to bring up a rather vehement and visceral reaction among people.

I would definitely love to hear your thoughts on this.