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Recruiternomics: The Faceoff Over Facebook

More than ever in our history, huge value is being leveraged from smart ideas—and the winning technology and business models they create. The people who can deliver on them are becoming invaluable, and the methods of employing and managing them are being transformed.

1st Law of Recruiternomics – In a knowledge-based economy and society, the employers with the best talent win.

Today, demographics on a broader scale are radically altering the recruiting landscape. An aging workforce of baby boomers was poised to retire by the end of this decade but recent “stock market corrections” may cause many to rethink their plans. No one yet knows how this will affect the supply of people but it will make it more difficult to locate and keep the best talent.  However, don’t mistake today’s “War for Talent” with the “War for Any Talent” prevalent in the late 1990s.

As profit margins are squeezed and sales drop, the “war for talent” has quickly morphed into the “war for the best talent.”

2nd Law of Recruiternomics – Regardless of the unemployment rate, the market for talent is always strong and extremely competitive.

In the 90’s, job boards supplanted newspapers for companies looking to hire. By 2007 LinkedIn had risen from obscurity to become the de facto home of job hunters and recruiters globally. Both job boards and LinkedIn are, as my daughter would say, “yesterday’s news.”  Today potential candidates are more likely to be sourced through Facebook or Twitter.

Keyword searches in “communities of interest” place 300 million potential candidates within easy reach.  The new web savvy generation of recruiters use “cloud computing” and social networking sites to solicit, recruit and manage relationships with passive job hunters.

While you may be excited about being that much closer to your “ideal” candidate and filling that open req, you’re probably not thrilled at the prospect of a negligent hiring or discrimination suit.

Negligent Hiring

As if it isn’t tough enough just to stay the course and remain solvent these days, many companies have been held liable for crimes committed by their staff. These offenses have ranged from capital to white collar — and this was all made possible because of new legislation called “Negligent Hiring.”

Negligent Hiring means a company can be held liable for failing to conduct an adequate pre-employment investigation into a job applicant’s background. If an employee has a history of misconduct indicating a propensity for criminal behavior which an employer could have discovered through a background investigation, the employer could be held liable for any resulting injuries. Failing to adequately investigate before hiring can expose the employer to liability for actual injuries, pain, suffering — and even punitive damages. You can be putting your whole organization at risk.


It’s illegal to require job applicants to submit photographs or inquire about their marital status or age, because doing so is a breach of civil rights and may cause the applicant to accuse you of discrimination. How ironic then that social networking profiles make this off-limits information readily available, opening the potential for liability. Now, demographic data isn’t the only concern for employers. Profiles may also include information about an applicant’s social, political or sexual activities, factors that employers are prohibited from considering in most jurisdictions.


What you do and do not know about your prospective employees can hurt you, and while federal legislation hasn’t yet caught up to social networking technology, the lawsuits are mounting. So while your recruiters may be using search engines and social media sites as their tools of choice, they may be heading into unchartered waters.

It’s unlikely employers are going to learn a good deal of job-related information from a Facebook page which they wouldn’t learn from a well-structured interview. It also seems unlikely that anyone would discuss his or her illegal activities on their Facebook profile – however, you never know.

Clearly, the potential benefits of this “voyeurism” are not without risk. You need to have your legal counsel vet and approve a specific policy on gathering and using the “additional” information they discover before they dive into the Internet.

NOT hiring a “STAR” because of something the recruiter or hiring manager saw posted on a candidate’s Facebook or Twitter profile – whether they are an active job applicant or a passive candidate – is a huge risk in a hotly contested “War for Talent.”

What should you do when a star candidate reveals more in their profile than you’d like to know? First, ensure your organization has a clear policy on the use of the information. Second, stick to your original hiring goals. Lastly, if you haven’t already done so, add an Emotional Intelligence Assessment layer to your recruiting process.

Why add Emotional Intelligence to your recruiting process? Because job hunters are becoming quite creative about managing their personal profiles to insure they can be found by recruiters at the exact moment the recruiter is looking for someone with their qualifications.

3rd Law of Recruiternomics – A reference check is just one person’s opinion and subject to interpretation.

Reference checks are always subject to miscommunication, misinformation and manipulation. On the other hand, an Emotional Intelligence assessment  is a scientifically validated tool that exposes a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and can be used to confirm the candidate’s references and claims.

Today an employee is no longer just a piece of the puzzle that completes the big picture. With their team they are what gives one organization a distinct competitive advantage over another.  Per the 1st Law of Recruiternomics, today’s companies are specifically looking for an edge and a well-run recruiting function can provide it.


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