Use Social Media Sites With Care

Employers can benefit from using social media sites, if they use them – carefully.  Professional, and even personal, online networking sites are popular places to search for employees and build qualified pools of candidates. However, as social media networking and recruiting grow in popularity, employers need to use social media sites with caution, especially as a means of background checking.

Are job references, provided by an employee on a social media site, an official company reference for purposes of background checking and employment? No. Should employers utilize social media job references? Maybe. It is very important for  employers to remember that social media references are an informal acknowledgement that somebody, somewhere out there, likes a candidate enough to say so. But, this does not constitute an employment reference.  The dilemma lies in differentiating a friend or colleague’s social media recommendations from references authorized by a company.

I recommend considering the similarity of online references with other data you’ve gathered about a potential employee. Social media references can provide interesting additions to your potential employee’s profile, but take them for what they are worth. Regard references in social media the same way you would consider personal recommendations from family and friends.

Are You Getting The Big Picture?

The interview is no doubt an important factor in the employee selection process for most organizations and a key to assessing a candidate’s match with your firm’s criteria. An initial meeting allows an interviewer to get to know a candidate on a more personal basis. However, as placement specialists we are careful not to base our referral decisions solely on interviews. Reference checking is crucial in our prequalifying process to insure that we refer only individuals best suited for our clients’ consideration.  

An experienced member of our staff conducts reference checking by phone. The conversation includes questioning of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as performance.  We ask questions that are open-ended and conversational in tone. This approach creates a greater comfort level for the person providing the reference, and usually generates more thoughtful and detailed information. 

There are some organizations that prohibit the release of information other than verification of title and dates of employment. However, our staff always tries to gain as much information as possible. Subjective questions are designed to obtain more detailed responses especially the reason for separation and overall recommendation. 

When we are only able to obtain limited references from previous employers, we then ask the candidate to give us names of immediate supervisors or co-workers that might be willing to give us additional insight.  This information can be vital in evaluating a person’s potential success as an employee. How questions are answered is just as important as what is said. The level of enthusiasm, an innuendo, or even tone of voice can imply a positive or negative opinion of the individual. 

Our written, comprehensive employment review of those candidates being considered include: reason for leaving, salary, eligibility status for rehire, and recommendation for another position/role, as well as verification of dates of employment, confirmation of position and title held.  Reference research for management personnel may also include discussion of: interpersonal relations, decision-making and managerial talent, productivity, integrity, problem resolution skills, business development and leadership qualities, and any special concerns that may be of significance based on a client’s specific requirements.