Let’s start by imagining a hypothetical recruiter. We’ll name him Rich, so that we can tell a story about him without constantly referring to him as “the hypothetical recruiter.”
And now, story time:
Rich is an in-house corporate recruiter looking to fill a sales role. Sorting through resumes one day, Rich comes across a person who looks, on paper, to be a very qualified candidate. We’ll call her Gina.
In her cover letter, Gina mentions that she is passionate about sales and that she blogs about sales all the time. Curious about Gina’s sales blog, Rich does a quick Google search to see if he can find it — which he does. And it’s a great blog!
But Rich also find Gina’s social medial profiles: her Facebook account, her Twitter feed, etc. Rich is now torn: should he look at Gina’s Facebook profile?
What if he does look at Gina’s profile, and then Gina doesn’t get the job, and then Rich gets accused of discrimination?
Would looking at Gina’s profile prove to be the slippery slope to discrimination?
“After all,” Rich reminds himself, “I am supposed to judge a candidate based on their skills alone. If I look at Gina’s profile, I might find out more about her skills — but I might also find out about her personal life, and that could be a big problem! That could lead to charges of discrimination!”
“Frankly, I think this is all bulls—,” says Jerome Ternynck, founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters. “Discrimination doesn’t happen in full sunlight. Discrimination happens behind closed doors and in quiet conversations.”
What Ternynck means is that he believes all the fretting and hand-wringing about social media leading to discrimination in recruiting is nonsense. Discrimination happened way before social media even existed, and it continues to happen to this day. Social media isn’t causing discrimination, Ternynck says.
In fact, Ternynck argues that social media may actually help us minimize — or eliminate altogether — discrimination in recruiting and hiring efforts.
“Everything in history shows us that social media brings transparency, and transparency brings more freedom, democracy, and better behavior,” he says. “I encourage recruiters and hiring managers to actively use social media and the information they can find on social media to interact with the human beings that are on the other side, that are the candidates. If we embraces social media and transparency in recruiting, then we will naturally end up with a more diverse and less discriminatory recruiting process.”
Social Media Could Bring Recruiting Back to Its Social Roots
Today’s hiring process is a fairly degrading affair, Ternynck believes: “The idea that a human being fills in an application to become an applicant that needs to be tracked in a compliant workflow — that is basically taking a person and turning them into a commodity, which then leads to a very dehumanized and very opaque recruiting process, in my opinion.”
This, Ternynck feels, is the true problem with hiring and recruiting: not that social media allows people to discriminate, but that recruiting processes treat candidates like objects, and that the opacity of the purely ATS-based recruiting process actually fosters far more discrimination than social media-based recruiting. When candidates have no clue what’s going on behind a company’s closed doors, recruiters and hiring managers are free to throw away the resumes of candidates with “ethnic” or female names.
Moreover, when recruiters only know candidates as pieces of paper and bits of data — rather than as human beings — they may not realize that the uncommon name on that resume is attached to a really amazing person who would fit in perfectly at the company.
Social media can cast some light into the process, allowing recruiters and candidates to connect as human beings, thereby returning recruiting to its roots as a social activity.
“What could possibly be more social than recruiting?” Ternynck asks. “You bring a bunch of people from outside to meet a bunch of people from inside to figure out if you all want to work together. That is a social activity, and we should bring it back to being a social activity.”
Ternynck believes that social media not only brings the “social” back to recruiting, but also makes the process more transparent between both recruiters and candidates and the members of recruiting teams.
When recruiters and candidates can connect via social media, they can foster open channels of communication and more readily share information with one another, creating a less opaque hiring process. Recruiters and candidates can also get to know each other as human beings, making it easier to hire for cultural fit. And, when we see one another as human, we find it easier to quiet the unconscious biases storming in our brains.
When recruiting teams use social media platforms and collaborative recruiting technologies, they can work together, agree upon clear criteria, and hold honest conversations about candidates. Each recruiter on the team can see what the others are thinking, which allows everyone to get on the same page — or at least understand where and why differences exist and address any issues that may arise during the process.
All of this transparency is good for everyone, according to Ternynck. In making the hiring process more fluid, more human, and more direct for recruiters and candidates, social media ensures that no one is ever left in the dark. The right hand always knows what the left is doing — and, in an admittedly strange twist of metaphor (bear with me here), the right and the left hand also know who one another is.