As more employers use social networks to recruit, many lawyers warn the practice could get companies sued. Are they right, or just overreacting?
The biggest concern: Users of social networking sites are primarily Caucasians age 20-40. For example, on LinkedIn, only 4% of users are African-American, and just 2% are Hispanic, according to the latest data from Quantcast.
As with all social networking sites, usage declines in older demographics.
Recruiting on those sites can cause problems, says attorney Pamela Devata in Workforce, because it could have a disparate impact on groups without a large social networking presence.
That may be especially true with LinkedIn, which lets users create online connections with people they know. They can then find other people by seeing their contacts’ contacts, their contacts’ contacts’ contacts, etc.
The problem is, finding candidates that way could leave HR with a very homogeneous group.
What’s the danger?
Not all HR experts have the same concern about social networking. As many of those who’ve commented on the story point out, the same complaints can be made about a lot of traditional recruiting strategies. For example, most newspaper readers are white, so therefore recruiting via classified ads could have a disparate impact.
The same goes for referrals, a time-tested hiring strategy. In 2004, an employer was sued by a group of minority applicants who claimed the company’s referral practices were biased.
Nearly all new hires were referred by current employees. Nearly all of the referred applicants were white. The company tried having the case tossed on the grounds that it was just choosing from the applicant pool made available. But the judge refused, ruling that hiring only through referrals had a disparate impact on some groups of applicants (Cite: EEOC v. Caril Buddig & Co.).
Use a variety of sources
So is recruiting through social networking sites really dangerous? It could be.
But probably not much more than some other recruiting methods. The best solution is to find applicants in a variety of places to get a diverse candidate pool.
What do you think? Is recruiting on Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites likely to lead to legal problems for companies? Is the strategy worth the risk? Let us know in the comments section below.