Social Media Analytics in Employee Recruitment

A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that social network profiles of job applicants were surprisingly good predictors of how well they might fit into an organization. Researchers reported that they could accurately assess, based on an analysis of the Facebook posts of 500 people, how a job candidate would rank in the “Big 5” personality traits: 1) Openness to experience; 2) Conscientiousness; 3) Extroversion; 4) Agreeableness; and 5) Neuroticism. It was suggested that if social networks can provide an evaluation of how well an individual will do in a particular job, then employers should use such platforms as the first stage of screening in the interview process.

Social Media Trend

A major part of the job recruitment process has already moved online. These days, employers are looking for potential candidates via sites like LinkedIn, or tracking applicants through tools like Monster or Career Builder. Social networks can also help employers get in touch with a different pool of candidates, not just the ones that apply for the job.

Studies on social media analytics have shown that almost 40 percent of technology industry companies check their potential employees’ profiles on social media sites. Mads Christensen, Network Director at Eurocom Worldwide, says “The 21st century human is learning that every action leaves an indelible digital trail. In the years ahead many of us will be challenged by what we are making public in various social forums today.”

What about privacy?

Using social media analytics as a recruitment tool also brings up concerns about user privacy. Candidates may feel that companies are unjustifiably basing their decisions on a person’s social media activities. Job seekers and privacy advocates often argue that personal life should not be confused with work life and as such, social media profiles should not be used as part of the decision-making process in recruitment.

According to Chirag Nangia, CEO of Reppify, a San Francisco-based business that uses integrated social media data to help companies find the right people:

“Employers have to be constantly aware of the types of information they are restricted from using in the selection process. However, because doing a web search on a candidate reveals many types of information, including information deemed ‘Protected Class’ (race, gender, etc.), it can be potentially dangerous to manually assess candidates’ social media properties. Aside from being restricted, the process is time consuming and cumbersome to use when comparing across candidates. For job seekers, it opens up questions around what they should or should not post to their own closed network of friends and family, which we believe is setting the wrong precedent.”

Another concern is that employers might be too dependent on social media information when making hiring decisions. According to the 2012 annual technology market survey conducted by Eurocom Worldwide, almost one in five technology industry executives say that a candidate’s social media profile has caused them not to hire a person. This survey is the first evidence that prospective job candidates are actually being rejected because of their profiles.

Proponents of the practice argue that social media analytics data should not be used on their own, rather as part of the overall recruitment process, together with face-to-face interviews, tests, background checks and other proven methods of determining a candidate’s likely performance in a job and his/her organizational fit.


This article explores how social media analytics has impacted the job recruitment and applicant assessment process. 40 percent of tech companies have reported that they use social media profiles in their hiring process, while 20 percent of these companies have admitted that a candidate’s social media profile has actually caused them not to hire a person.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) exam,  a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Employee background screening – social media (IV.B.a.ii.4.)

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