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Three Ways Social Media is Influencing HR Today

Posted by Aaron Green  July 20, 2009 04:50 PM

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Whether you love it or loathe it, use it or overlook it, social media is a part of our everyday life. For employers and HR managers, social media can be a powerful tool for communicating, researching and interacting with employees, job candidates, customers and the general public. Are you leveraging social media to the fullest in your recruiting, hiring and reputation management efforts?

More Options for Communicating the Company Brand
The "social" nature of social media presents lots of opportunities for customers, job-seekers and the general public to learn about your organization. It goes without saying that job seekers and potential customers will conduct an online search when they want to know more about a company or find a business provider. With social media there are many different options for self-publishing information about your company, as well as job opportunities within your organization and insight into your company culture. A marketer's dream -- we now have more ways than ever to convey our brand. On the other hand, competitors, critics and detractors also have more ways to publicly attack or criticize our businesses. Reviews on local search web sites like Yelp, as well as comments from past and present employees that appear on blogs and microblog sites like Twitter, are all ways to share different types of information and impressions with social media. It's important to establish a monitoring program to stay on top of your online reputation. For example, you can start with a basic tool like Google Alerts and an elementary analytics program to understand where web traffic is coming from. Don't neglect the "pay-for-play" options either. Making sure your name appears at the top of search results is called search engine optimization (SEO).

Advanced Networking for Recruiters
Blogs, social networks and online communities are terrific tools for recruiting. Recruiters and job seekers both use LinkedIn and features on LinkedIn, like Groups, Polls, Answers and InMail. to initiate contact with each other. Many recruiters leverage their network when they have a job opening, stay in touch with past candidates and colleagues, search for candidates based on keywords and references, and respond to Group questions to raise their profiles. To some extent, Facebook is used this way too, especially for entry-level talent. Many recruiters have a personal Facebook page, and take advantage of the messaging and referral capabilities, but also admit the real value for recruiting is building a corporate Facebook fan page. Similarly, YouTube is a great, cost-effective way to incorporate visual (video) messaging in your recruiting efforts. Participating in online communities and commenting on blogs that are geared toward one industry or a specific job function is another way to make connections and identify and recruit talent.

More Sources for Candidate Background Checks
There's a debate in the corporate world over using social media for candidate background checks. Many recruiters and hiring managers will tell you that after meeting a qualified candidate they immediately search Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. to find out more about that person. Essentially what they're looking for is a reason NOT to make the hire - are there any incriminating photos, questionable links or associations that turn up, did they misrepresent their background? If performed properly these background checks are legal, though some conservative legal counsel may advise against them. My advice: have a policy about your use of social media for background checks and follow it consistently. Decide whether you will do social media searches on all candidates, or only candidates for certain positions; following a formal policy will help ensure that you are not discriminating against a particular candidate. Also consider what lengths your searches will go to in making sure you're uncovering information about the right person, i.e. is the John Doe you find online the same one interviewing for your job opening?

How are you using social media today? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions . He is also a member of the board of directors of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at or (617) 250-1000.

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Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.