Selecting Job Applicants in the Age of Social Media

An article in the ‘mycareer’ section of 4 October’s Sydney Morning Herald revealed that increasingly employers are using social media sites such as Twitter to help select job applicants. Alan Geere, from Essex Chronicle Media Group and Northcliffe Media South East in the UK this week asked would-be reporters to apply for jobs by tweeting 140 words about themselves.

Twitter has also been used by such well known organisations as McDonalds and Sony.

Mr Geere advised in his blog that he preferred this method of seeking employees as he is “fed up with wading through turgid ‘letters of application’ and monstrous CVs”.

Greg Jericho, who landed a job as a researcher for the new Chaser project The Hamster Wheel thanks to his Twitter account, advised that rather than a single tweet, his commentary and significant following helped him build relationships that resulted in the job offer.

However, while Twitter may be an effective way of communicating a succinct message, it unfortunately has many of the same disadvantages as CVs and application letters. The authenticity of claims made can be difficult or time-consuming to verify – any information provided by a candidate is likely to be tailored to reflect strengths and minimise weaknesses and may include a few embellishments or ‘white lies’.

It may also include much more than white lies. The Human Resources website HC Online article “Fake Referees – Are you sure of your Applicant’s Employment Background” revealed that there is a burgeoning business in providing false reference and employment verification information to employers.

On a less sinister note, a better-qualified friend could also be called upon to help write such letters and tweets.

Twitter also has a number of additional disadvantages that are specific to social media. The following need to be considered:

  • Who’s really writing the tweets: with the use of third-party services (such as HootSuite), tweets can be updated automatically without having to log in on a regular basis – so a robot could be writing a person’s tweets.
  • What else is on there: while a well-crafted tweet may be the key to landing a job, if there are other visible tweets on the account that are not so well thought out or actively violate the organisation’s values then it could turn ugly.
  • Who or what is connected to the Twitter account: An online presence in any form (such as a personal Facebook page associated with the Twitter account or having a suspect follower) can mean that prospective employers are privy to information that could be potentially embarrassing or damaging to the individual and the working relationship.
  • Are they a Twitter fanatic: While it may be impressive to see what your prospective employee can do on Twitter it may also be an indication that they may waste valuable work time on social media and other websites. A survey of more than 500 employees in the US found that almost 60% of work interruptions involved social media or other websites and online tools and that 53% of employees waste one hour per day due to such distractions, costing over $10,000 in lost productivity per person per annum.

There is a solution

Research shows that psychometric tests (tests that assess intellectual abilities and specialised skills) have the highest correlations with job performance, much higher than referee checks and resumes. See our June 27 blog Psychometric Aptitude Tests v’s Referee Checks for more information about the superior reliability of such tests.

Psychometric tests are a proven measure than can be used as an alternative or supplement to other forms of employee selection, such as tweets.

While the reliability of tools such as Twitter is yet to be determined, it is likely to be similar to that of resumes because while in a different form it is also information provided directly by the applicant about themselves.

The advantages of psychometric testing are numerous. Such tests are research-based, novel and standardised. This means that all applicants are on the same playing field, performance cannot be faked and the outcomes are likely to be highly indicative of on-the-job performance. Individual performance can be interpreted within the context of norms which compare it to how others performed on the same tasks.

RightPeople has a wide range of aptitude tests that are applicable to different types of jobs and industries. Our tests measure global intellectual functioning, specific task-related skills and management competency.  These can be supplemented with measures of personality traits that can identify personal attributes shown to be related to performance in various roles.

Our tests can be administered online or in a paper-based format so unlike Twitter they are suited to the needs of workers from all generations.

RightPeople can tailor a package to your needs. Let us help you navigate the world of job selection. Contact us today to discuss your needs.