The perils of Social HR

One might argue that “Social HR” (yes, this term has been recently coined by a Forbes.com contributor) might be just another buzzword but HR has always been about social relationships – inside and outside the company. Keeping talent motivated and attracting new people on board requires a lot of social capital (the network value inside and outside the company).

With people sharing more and more information about themselves, knowingly or not, a quick Google Search has recently become one of the gateways between getting an interview as a potential employee or getting rejected before you even start speaking.

Using Internet and Social media research, HR professionals are now profiling potential candidates but sometimes this can be a little tricky because:

1. The best personal brand is not always the best professional

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” says an old Internet joke. That may be true for Social Media also – people too often mistake personal branding with personal development. A high Klout score does not necessarily mean the user  is a good professional also (well, unless you are looking to hire Justin Bieber on account of his popularity with the teens).

Of course there are profiles where reach and social media influence really do matter but unfortunately not all employees are or should be PR representatives of the company. In such a case an indicator such as Klout score could be irrelevant but one might look into the Twitter feed for any “my company sucks” posts.

2. Privacy is still a thing

Social HR seems to be a very friendly and open expression but once you really look into it there is a little bit of stalking in the whole concept of social media information when recruiting.

Of course – anyone can check LinkedIn information – that’s why people post it there but it starts being a little creepy once you get into personal information or photos for someone applying for a job in accounting.

While it would seem that snooping around Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds is really part of a thorough profile check to make sure you get the best talent available –  it is also a gray area in privacy policy. No one really wants to work for Big Brother.

3. It’s not about “I’m great”, it’s about “He/She’s great”

So far the best way of knowing who was an expert in a certain field, as far as social media followers were concerned, was information available online, information usually posted by the one claiming the “expert” status. If you think about it that looks a lot like bragging, which is usually great when applying for a job, as long as it is really backed up by facts and figures.

LinkedIn has taken some steps to address this issue and introduced an endorsement feature that lets peers say what they think about one another. LinkedIn users can now endorse their connections on professional skills listed on profile. Of course – some of them are less informed but the truth lays in the numbers and HR can actually have a better outlook on prospective recruits.

I’ve listed just three potential perils of Social HR but I am sure there is more to it as there is more to HR than recruiting. I’ll let you add them in the comments.

Can Social Media Influence be used as a factor in HR recruiting?

Recently Salesforce.com posted a job regarding a position as a Community Manager. Among others the company asked for a Klout score of at least 35. For those not in the know Klout is one of the front runners in the social media influence analytics. It features 19 social networks users can choose depending on where they believe their most influential actions come from.

salesforce.com recruits community manager
Salesforce.com’s Community Manager position drew a lot of attention

After the position showed up bloggers started discussing the possibility that in the future such a score might be used on a wider scale in HR recruiting.

Just like education, previous experience and maybe hobbies, should we expect such an influence score to become a widespread requirement in job applications? Probably not.

Although building sustainable social networks (in the real world) can mean a greater influence, a higher life standard and probably a happier life, online social networks are not (usually) real social networks. Social media can go so far and potential employees should not be judged on this type of score.

Think of a bank CEO. He probably does not have a really wide social network. But the small network he is active in, although usually not very popular, can be really influential in the real world and his actions and decisions highly disruptive. This might also be applied to scientists, lawyers, inventors and many other jobs that don’t need thousands of friends to be highly successful in their everyday lives.

Social media influence should be a requirement only with social media jobs. Maybe not even there.