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Social media and recruitment

Employers are increasingly using social media to recruit staff. It has become much more than just another channel for listing job vacancies and is having considerable influence in changing how some employers approach recruitment.

Key Points

  • Advertising jobs: Employers should usually use at least two different types of channel - for example, a social media website and the Jobcentre - in publicising vacancies to attract potential candidates from different backgrounds. If an employer only targets people who are similar it may be accused of discriminating against people outside of those social groups. 
  • Screening applicants: Some employers look at job candidates' social media profiles to see how they present themselves to the outside world and how they might fit the job. But, employers should take care as there can be pitfalls. 
  • Risks of discrimination: Laws protecting people from discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, disability, race, marriage and civil partnership, religion and belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and pregnancy and maternity start at the recruitment stage. These grounds are called protected characteristics.

    Employers could face an employment tribunal hearing if they refused to interview or offer a job to someone based on a judgement they made through looking at the candidate's social media profile and then discriminating against them because of a protected characteristic belonging to the candidate which they noticed on the site. 
  • Social exclusion: While eight out of every ten people in the UK use the internet, only about half of them use social media. There are also concerns there could be differences among different ethnic groups in the acceptance and use of social media for job seeking and recruitment.

    Employers should take into account:
    • how they will reach potentially good candidates who do not use social media 
    • whether it is fair to assess candidates differently by looking at the social media profiles of applicants who have them while they cannot do the same for those who do not 
    • that using social media to try to target low-skilled workers may not prove successful as they are less likely to use it in their roles.

Acas Senior Policy Advisor Adrian Wakeling talks about social media in the workplace.