5 Things Not to Do When Recruiting with Social Media


The EEOC hearings on social media in the workplace have had our attention for weeks. The testimonies have helped us analyze the true meaning of “social media” as it pertains to HR and share key takeaways on social media recruiting.

But if there’s anything else you should take away from the recent hearings, it’s what not to do when recruiting with social media. Social media does give recruiters and hiring managers new ways to expand their applicant pool, but there are several reasons to take caution:

  1. Don’t use social media as your exclusive way of attracting applicants.

    Applicants are looking for jobs in many places, not just on social media. Plus, not everyone uses mainstream social sites. To increase your employer visibility, post to multiple areas. Use job boards, job aggregators, social networks, your own career page and any other site your applicants may be looking. As Jonathan Segal notes, “Smart employees use a variety of sources to develop a diverse application pool, and social media is but one vehicle.”

  2. Don’t explicitly target on social media.

    The advanced ad-targeting capabilities of social networks are impressive. And for many companies posting ads, hyper-targeting is a good thing. But it may not be for employers. At its core, posting a job opening on a website is the same thing as posting an ad for anything. So should you leverage the ability to target your postings only to a specific set of people? Probably not. As Attorney Renee Jackson stated in her testimony, “Using targeted advertising to post a job in social media could result in discrimination against the non-targeted groups.”

  3. Don’t discriminate.

    Regardless of where you post your jobs, and what you look at, one rule that remains absolutely clear is you can’t discriminate when hiring. You may learn what a person looks like, or her/his approximate age, gender or several other things about the applicant when using social media. But many of these characteristics (such as gender, age, sexual orientation, political philosophy and more) are protected either by Federal or state laws and cannot be used in making a hiring decision. For a discussion on how legislation impacts social media, see Attorney Lynne Bernabei’s testimony here.

  4. Don’t ask applicants or employees for usernames and passwords to social media sites.

    Many companies have gotten in trouble for this. So there is one simple answer, supported by much of the recent testimony at the EEOC hearings— don’t ask candidates or employees for social media user names and passwords. The number of states enacting legislation on this subject is rapidly increasing, and there is current Federal legislation being considered on this matter. And of equal importance, it can give your company a negative first impression with your potential employees.

  5. Don’t rely on the law.

    Relying on the law is often a reactive exercise, not a proactive strategy. New social media apps and websites are being created every day. And they can rapidly attract millions of users. It can take more than three years for a court case, or statute, to become final. The law simply can’t keep pace with internet innovations.

Social media, however it’s defined, is here. It’s is no longer a fringe topic in HR. And most companies already use social media in some way. While these tips outline what you should avoid doing while using social media, you can wisely and legally use social media for recruiting. Often, it can give you an edge in finding and attracting applicants. But remember—be mindful of how you plan to use the information you discover through social media.

If your business has included social media screenings as part of the hiring and recruiting process, there are several steps you can take to make sure you and your HR colleagues are aligned on how to best perform social media background screens in a safe and helpful manner. Read this blog post to find out!


We’ve shared these tips to help educate you on social media employment screenings and considerations for your business—this information should not be construed as legal advice. But if your company chooses to screen applicants on social media or want to explore the topic even further, consult with an attorney for advice related to this screening tactic.

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