I’m going to start off my blogging at HR Review my commenting on another blog post – Social media – the challenges for HR

I firstly want to correct a factual error, and then address the focus of the post.

“It had become fairly common practice in the US for employers to either demand the candidate log in to their Facebook page at interview or to hand over their password so the recruiter can snoop into their personal profile.”

– No it hasn’t! US recruiters were just as aghast about this being reported last year as over here.

Apart from this complete factual inaccuracy, I enjoyed the article and wouldn’t disagree with anything it recommends. HR and recruiting teams do need policies to ensure they’re protected, and also help employees understand what they should, can, and shouldn’t do.

But I do think there’s a lot more than policy at stake here. And often it’s not even a question of policy – or at least social media policy – Trafford Housing for example was just about a complete absence of good humour – chill people!

To be fair, the other post does say ‘While social media has the potential to deliver a tremendous return’ but there’s not a lot on the return in the article. The potential return is huge! – much bigger than the risks – and in some cases, discounts the risk as well. That is, if you focus on the opportunity, the risk goes away.

Let me explain using social recruiting and background checking as an example. I’m one of those people who disagree with the CIPD’s guidance not to use social media for background checking. I’ve recruited people in the past who turned out to be big mistakes and if I could have avoided these errors, I’d have wanted to have done so. So if I was still recruiting today, I’d want to use social media to give myself as much protection as I can.

What I would do is tell the hiring manager not to use social media, and I’d only use information I find on these sites if it’s material to the case. So for example, if I find photos of a candidate being drunk and disorderly on their Facebook page, I’d see that as a good thing. I wouldn’t personally want to work in an organisation where people can’t let their hair down every now and again.

But anyway, that’s only part of the point. If I was still doing recruiting today, I probably wouldn’t be anymore – or at least I wouldn’t be recruiting for my most valuable positions. I’d be sourcing instead. I’d be using social media to find the best people that I might want – now or in the future – and I’d be using social media to keep in touch with them.

Now if I’m already doing this, where’s the problem in using social media to check the backgrounds of those people who still send in their CVs? I’m using social media for sourcing, I might as well use it for recruiting as well.

So the risk goes away.

I think that’s the case in a lot of areas impacted by social media too. Focus on the opportunities, not the challenges, and the challenges may seem less challenging.

For more on this (as well as the risks) you may want to come along to:

– Social media skills for HR professionals

– Moving from recruitment to strategic talent acquisition





Jon Ingham is an independent strategic people management and organisation development consultant. He regularly speaks and provides training in Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia and has also lectured in strategic management, change management and human resources on executive MBA courses in both West and East Europe.

Jon is also the author of ‘Strategic HCM: Creating Value through People’ (2006) and is currently completing a second book called ‘Social Advantage’. He also posts regularly to blogs with these same titles and has recently been recognised as the top global online influencer in talent management.

Currently working with Strategic Dynamics, Jon was previously with Director of Human Capital Consulting, Europe for Buck Consultants / ACS and as Head of HR Consulting for Penna. Before this he worked as an International HR Director for Ernst & Young, and before that as an IT then change management consultant for Andersen Consulting.

Jon has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Engineering and an MBA. He is a Fellow of the CIPD.