In today's social networking climate, I often hear much ado regarding the power of Facebook and other social networks for candidate sourcing. Popularity notwithstanding, I am often left to wonder as to the validity of using these sources for hiring criteria, but hundreds, if not thousands, of recruiters and HR professionals get online daily and search for candidates using these networks as their main resource. It is not so much the use of these networking sources for leads that I see as the issue, but rather when using this personal information as a basis for filling specific needs in a hiring organization.
As a hiring or staffing agent, your main requirement is to find the people that can complete the work. In the long term you look for how they will fit the company culture and specific group dynamic in which they will be working. Once hired we request our employees to keep their personal and professional life separate in our environment, so is it right for us to judge them based on personal idioms we find reflected in their online profile? When I ask them, as an employer, to keep their personal life out of work in order to retain a professional environment, is it ethical to review that information on my own to determine eligibility for employment or continued employment? Some might say 'no'.
Take, for example, the recent explosion of media coverage regarding our current sensation and flavor-of-the-week, Charlie Sheen. Although he appears to be a top producer for his previous network, would you then be inclined to offer him more leeway in regard to personal conduct and behavior in your own organization? We understand that getting a top producer is hard enough, and finding the best talent to fill your needs is certainly a job unto itself. You should consider what you would be willing to allow for someone at this level and then be sure to apply that same threshold across the board, no matter the performance level of your employees. This will bring into alignment your company's ethical and moral code and standardize your expectations across your employee base in order to strengthen and bolster your next move ... which is to enforce these expectations at all levels, without exception. The only way to keep your organization legal is by enforcing your company's moral and ethical requirements equally, and without regard to their status or level inside your organization, and treat everyone up to the CEO exactly the same as you would a production line worker.
A company must always maintain this ethical consistency in their enforcement of Codes of Conduct, and a thorough review by your legal department is also suggested to assure you are in alignment with all federal, state, and local regulations. This will provide a clear outline as to what behavior is considered detrimental to the company image and which could potentially cause harm to the business as a whole.
Inside an HR Department, where these issues often first come to light, one strategy might be to have management request that employees set their personal profiles to private and only share with their personal network. Employees then are requested to make company related contact through a corporate sponsored profile rather than their personal one.
It is best, in my mind, to keep the personal and professional universes as separate as possible, in the interest of the company as well as the individual employee. Responsible hiring managers should always review candidates based solely on their ability to perform the task at hand, get along with their potential teammembers, and assist the company in achieving it's objectives.
Always take any personal information you can find on a social networking site as just that ... personal.
Inspired by this ERE.net article: Hiring Charlie Sheen