Use of Social Media Profiles v. Ethical Recruitment


The question of utilizing social media profiles and information in recruitment and selection processes attracts a variety of opinions. There are situations where referencing the applicant’s social media could directly address and identify his professional skills, for example, if the person uses social media as a portfolio. However, in cases where applicants provide a resume with the information that they agree to disclose to the company, the additional use of social media profiles could hinder the recruitment and selection processes. Even though utilization of social media profiles could violate the privacy and protection of personal data, the shortage of qualified candidates requires new methods and strategies of recruitment.

Main body

The core concept of data was determined a long time ago and stands for information in the form of facts and statistics that carries value as it could be used for reference or analytics. Currently, there are many ways to collect data, some of which are unnoticeable to people. For example, the recent introduction of a variety of smart devices “equipped with sensors and actuators” that connect to the internet via data communication technologies significantly expanded the ways of data collection (Biros, 2020, p.1). The term of personal data in its current meaning also occurred not a long time ago. Previously, personal data was used to describe a collection of information that is personal to an individual and is not widely distributed.

In the age of the internet and digital communications, the term of personal information acquired a broader definition. Biros emphasized that with changes in technology, more data is collected now than ever before and that data is used in “ways never imagined” (2020, p. 2). Now everything that could identify an individual in the internet space, including his age, level of income, banking information, and even information on the device he uses to browse the internet, is considered personal data. The number of cybersecurity breaches and incidents continues to rise as the government and privacy professionals fail to keep up with the rapid development of technologies. The government encourages the citizens to protect their personal data in the internet space and avoid entering dangerous websites to prevent personal data theft. However, these security encouragements and warnings only partially apply to social media.

Social media is a collection of technologies used to connect people around the world and provide an exchange of information. Boyd and Ellison (2007) (cited in Rettberg, 2009, p. 464) defined social networks as services that let individuals create a profile within limited system, conduct a list of users to connect to and view other people’s connections within the system. Social media networks could be used for entertainment, hobbies, friends and family connections, professional growth, and establishing business connections.

The contradiction between social media and personal data is that individuals are free to decide on making the social network profile public or semi-public. Luders (2008) (cited in Rettberg, 2009, p. 459) introduced the term ‘personal media’ that includes an individual’s online media and social media files. The term ‘personal media’ opposes the term ‘mass media,’ but unlike personal media, mass media obeys specific laws, while personal media on social networks stays unprotected and could be used by other people.

Some organizations, like banks, determine the conditions for cooperation in advance and disclaim their responsibility for the customer’s funds once he shares his personal banking information with third parties. On the other hand, personal media is not protected or regulated by social networks unless the individual violates the social network’s rules. People are free to share their opinions, thoughts, and personal media without thinking of how that information could be used against them. Rettberg (2009) draws an example of how Google and Yahoo give the government access to information about dissidents in China. The government uses the data from social networks information and search engines for dataveillance, which is a serious argument against the use of social networks.

As people are free to post whatever they like, the information provided by the individual in their social media could be used to identify a person and learn personal information about the person. Although there should be a system that separates a human’s internet persona from the actual human being, the excessive presence on the internet could lead to a potential information leak. Although personal information like taste in music, hobbies, and interests presents no value to scammers and hackers, the overall mass of information is transformed by social media platforms into valuable data. The social media platforms use the resulting data to maximize advertisements’ customization and increase advertisers’ income (Rettberg, 2009). However, human resource departments use personal information about an individual provided in social media networks in the recruitment and selection process to ensure the right choice of the workforce for the company or organization.

As companies and organizations value people as their main asset, companies’ main interest is to recruit only the best candidates. As all candidates go through Recruitment and Selection, the processes should be aligned with the company’s strategy. Moreover, as all careers start with Recruitment and Selection, both candidate and recruiter are interested in the smooth operation and simplification of the processes. Recruitment is defined by Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk as a search for the right talent and measures aimed at motivating talent’s application for jobs within the organization. (2018). Malfunctions of the recruitment process could potentially lead to additional costs and losses (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). Thus, companies and organizations constantly try to make the recruitment process faster, cheaper, and more effective.

The connection of social media networks to the hiring process became one of the most significant improvements in the last decade. In recent times, social media became a representation of an individual’s life and e a source of chronological organization of people’s lives and activities (Rettberg, 2009). According to Rettberg, people use simple social media patterns to organize their memories, social connections and provide a continuous timeline of their activities (2009). Taking the recruitment process to an online format made the process faster and cheaper and overall similar to connections in social networks (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). Active candidates are more likely to connect and apply to the companies they feel a personal connection with through the organization and style of its website and the company’s presence in social media (Walker et al., 2011). Candidates can filter companies on a personal connection, making the application process faster and helps organizations attract people more likely to contribute to the company’s mission and goals.

The initiative to continue recruiting process in an online format resulted in developing new sources and tools. Hunt describes that the fusion of social media in the recruitment process “fueled the fire” in developing new strategies (2010, p.36). Improvements in online recruitments led to the creation of websites and social networks designed for professionals. As highly qualified professionals might express interest in several companies simultaneously, the competition for the qualified individual among these companies implies using specific resources to attract the candidate. The social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are some of the possible resources for attracting candidates (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). Mikulak emphasized that utilization of social media lets the recruited engage with multiple candidates in a two-way dialogue through the scalability of social media, which was never possible before (as quoted in Hunt, 2010). A company’s ability to attract and retain talents is now frequently viewed as one of the most critical determinants of organizational effectiveness (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). The expansion of recruitment opportunities stands as a strong argument for the utilization of social media.

There are multiple different opinions on whether the utilization of social media profiles hinders the recruitment and selection processes for active candidates. The utilization of social media depends on the hiring company and its overall ethics and attitude towards employees. There are different types of organizations, and some organizations recognize the employees’ presence in social media as a part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that influences the employer’s reputation (Benitez et al., 2019). CSR and ethics help the company position itself in the labor market and establish a more congenial atmosphere (Tanwar and Kumar, 2019). An ethical work environment is defined by Tanwar and Kumar (2019) as an environment that nurtures moral values and, according to the authors, is one of the main factors in person-organization fit criteria. Richey, Ravishankar, and Coupland (2015, p. 598) emphasized that the companies need to acknowledge potential risks and implement “impression management” to their representation on social media platforms. In cases where the employee expresses inappropriate behavior online, the company might remove an employee to ensure the safety of the company’s image and reputation.

However, applying the topic to the recruitment and selection aspects implies that employees change their field of work at times. Thus, it is not rational for the employee or active candidate to fix his social media profile according to the standards of one company and then switch it in another way for the next organization. Applicants already use resumes and CVs to provide information for the company that they acknowledge as most important for qualification. The use of sourcing activities like web crawlers that continually search the web for information about employees could be viewed as a violation of privacy (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). In addition, utilizing social media information could alter the recruitment decision by forming a biased view of the candidate.

The scientific approach to Recruitment and Selection processes emphasizes the possible development of cognitive bias in decision-making. Cognitive biases form as a result of the brain’s efforts to simplify information. The list of biases counts more than 180 varieties that connect to the brain’s inability to rationalize judgment. Cognitive bias includes an individual’s perception, but unlike perception, cognitive biases touch on an individual’s sense of value judgment. Cognitive biases in recruitment and Selection processes could result in unlawful discrimination based on protected attributes that include age, disability, race, sex, intersex status, gender identity, and sexual orientation (Wiblen, 2021 – Week 2). Biases affect even the use of specific recruitment methods, as recruiters base their choice mostly on subjective norms and negative beliefs (Parry and Wilson, 2009). Cognitive biases could affect the ethical aspect of the decision-making process and contradict the company’s strategy and mission.

Although the possibility of cognitive bias formation is minimal in the recruitment process, the selection process, especially the widespread use of person-organization fit, could be fraught with biases. The selection process could be referred to as ‘matchmaking’ or, as defined by Wiblen, “matching an individual to the right job at the right time in the right organization with the right boss” (2021, Week 2). Kristof-Brown et al. (2005) (as cited in Tanwar and Kumar, 2019) referred to the person-organization fit as the match of individual’s and organizational values, beliefs, and culture. The solution of reaching objectivity in hiring processes is rhetorically possible and ensures validity and reliability, but is not yet achieved in reality (Wiblen, 2021, Week 1). The application of technological methods could potentially solve the issues of hiring connected to the human factor side of problems in decision-making.

Although the technological solution to the problem does not exist yet, there are several strategies that the recruiters could use to increase objectivity and reduce discrimination. The study conducted by Tanwar and Kumar (2019) showed the relations between employer brand and status of the employer of choice and emphasized that dimensions of employer branding have a positive impact on person-organization fit. The method implies the same principle previously mentioned in the essay and heavily relies on the candidates actively searching for the company that they are most interested in working. In this case, the companies are forced to develop and maintain an employer brand and achieve the employer of choice (EOC) status to be competitive in the race with other companies for qualified candidates (Tanwar and Kumar, 2019). The implication of the method benefits both sides, as employers can hire candidates with an increased level of dedication to the company’s mission, and the employees can be sure of the employer’s respect for employees.

Utilization of social networks used in combination with the EOC method to ensure the effectiveness of the recruitment process. As the essay stated previously, the implication of person-organization-fit in the selection process could be affected by bias criteria. Moreover, the utilization of social media profiles and information could potentially lead to discrimination of active candidates. However, the right choice of recruitment strategies and methods could simplify the selection process and make it as close to objective as possible.

As the last significant improvement in the hiring system was made through the introduction of online recruitment, further improvements require an expansion of recruitment methods and tools. The traditional ‘spray and pray’ approach that included limited activity from employers and focused more on the selection process is now considered outdated (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). Advertisements on job-seeking websites show limited impact, as they only influence people that actively look for a job at that particular moment. Moreover, the visitors from job-seeking websites qualify as active candidates for multiple companies and organizations simultaneously. Moreover, the results of a study conducted by Simon and Esteves (2015) reported the isomorphic mechanisms and forces used by different companies and business sectors in online recruitment. The effect from the advertisements in this context is similar to a single spray and is not effective in the recruitment aspect.

The combination of the strategy aimed at achieving the status of EOC with newly introduced tools for active sourcing could potentially transform the whole hiring system. The key of the new methods for candidate sourcing focuses on the passive and semi-passive candidates (Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk, 2018). For example, the companies translate their mission and goals to the population through their websites and corporate social media accounts to gather an audience of supporters of the company’s brand. Then, the company might announce the opening for a vacancy through their social media to ensure that the potential candidates would be familiar with the company’s mission and goals and qualify the person-organization-fit criteria. Alternatively, the company’s recruiters might actively scout social media profiles of the brand followers to find candidates that fit the requirements for the vacancy without even announcing it. The utilization of social media profiles and information in active sourcing for candidates could not be affected by biases and could not potentially discriminate the candidates. Moreover, such an approach simplifies the selection part of the hiring process as there are significantly fewer candidates.

The simplification of the selection process includes not only a reduction of the number of candidates. In fact, the improvement lies in preliminary approval of candidates on the stage of recruitment that could be made through the evaluation of data provided in social media profiles. As every potential candidate, active or passive, that suits the company’s parameters and matches the person-organization fit criteria is approved in advance by the recruiters, the candidate’s response becomes the last part of the system. In theory, the sudden suggestion of job opportunities could increase self-confidence for future employees and help establish a positive impression of the company. However, in reality, the implementation of the strategy should be carefully executed as oversaturating the candidates with suggestions of job opportunities could be perceived as bothersome or intrusive.

To prevent the negative reaction to suggestions of job opportunities, the companies and recruiters must understand the operating differences in various social platforms and take advantage of their possibilities. Some of the platforms let the recruiters send a message to the potential candidate with a suggestion of job opportunity through a request to add the company to the list of contacts. In this case, the candidate is free to choose between accepting the contact and continuing further communication or rejecting the request and ignoring the message. Hunt (2010) suggests utilizing social media to supplement already existing recruiting practices that companies have. Furthermore, Hunt (2010) emphasizes that social media provides the possibility of establishing a two-way dialogue that could be used to showcase the benefits of working in the company. For example, the message with a suggestion of a job opportunity could provide a link for the candidate to the company’s website. In this case, the potential candidate is presented with an opportunity to get acquainted with the company and its activities before making a choice.

Moreover, social media utilization helps the recruiters locate and make connections with passive or semi-passive candidates. Koch, Gerber, and de Klerk (2018) defined semi-passive candidates as those who do not engage in active job-seeking activities but show interest in acquiring a new position. Passive candidates, on the other hand, according to the authors, are those who are currently employed and show no interest in other positions. Although traditional methods do not value these groups of candidates, the current situation with a shortage of talents requires expanding the process of recruitment and establishing a connection with passive and semi-passive candidates. In addition, the recruitment process should cover the aspect of the ongoing war between companies for talents. The company’s presence in social media is the crucial factor for attracting passive and semi-passive candidates.


In conclusion, this essay explored the topic of utilizing social media profiles and information and whether it hinders ethical recruitment and selection processes. The essay showed that utilizing social media profiles and information in the process of selection of active candidates could affect decision-making with bias formed against the candidate and hinder the ethics of the process. However, utilizing social media profiles and information in the recruitment part of the hiring process could benefit the organization and help determine passive or semi-passive candidates and simplify the selection process. The essay also listed several arguments against the utilization of social media: first, the utilization of social media violates the protection of personal data and media and could lead to discrimination of the candidate. Next, the formed bias against the candidate could affect the ethical aspect of the decision-making process and contradict the company’s strategy and mission. The essay also listed an important argument for the utilization of social media: there is a shortage of talents, so companies should revise the existing recruitment strategies to compete for the talents properly.

Reference List

Benitez et al. (2020) ‘How corporate social responsibility activities influence employer reputation: The role of social media capability’, Decision Support Systems, 129, pp. 1-36.

Biros, D. (2020). ‘The challenges of new information technology on security, privacy and ethics’, Journal of the Midwest Association for Information Systems, 2, pp. 1-6.

Hunt, K. (2010) ‘Finders keepers: social media strategies help find top talent’, Journal of Property Management, 75(6), pp.36-40.

Koch, T., Gerber, C., and de Klerk, J. (2018) ‘The impact of social media on recruitment: are you LinkedIn?’ SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 16, pp. 1-14.

Parry, E. and Wilson, H. (2007) ‘Factors influencing the adoption of online recruitment’, Personnel Review, 38(6), pp. 655-673.

Rettberg, J. (2009) ‘’Freshly generated for you, and Barack Obama’: how social media represent your life’, European Journal of Communication, 24(4), pp. 451-466.

Richey, M., Ravishankar, M., and Coupland, C. (2016) ‘Exploring situationally inappropriate social media posts: An impression management perspective’, Information Technology & People, 29(3), pp.597-617.

Simón, C. and Esteves, J. (2015) ‘The limits of institutional isomorphism in the design of e-recruitment websites: a comparative analysis of the USA and Spain’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27(1), pp. 23-44.

Tanwar, K. and Kumar, A. (2019) ‘Employer brand, person-organization fit and employer

of choice: Investigating the moderating effect of social media’, Personnel Review, 48(2), pp. 799-823.

Walker, J. et al. (2011) ‘So what do you think of the organization? A contextual priming explanation for recruitment web site characteristics as antecedents of job seekers’ organizational image perceptions’, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 114(2), pp. 165-178.

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