SHRM Survey: Few Employers Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates


Although recent survey findings by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicated that a majority (56 percent) of employers are tapping Internet social networking sites to search for potential job candidates, results released by SHRM from the second phase of the survey show that a much smaller number of businesses are using web-based resources, such as online search engines and social networking websites, to screen applicants.

The new results released by SHRM on Aug. 25, 2011, revealed that slightly more than one-quarter (26 percent) of respondents said that their organizations use search engines to screen job applicants, while only 18 percent of the poll participants said that their companies use social networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) for the same purpose. In addition, the survey revealed that approximately two-thirds of respondents have never used or no longer use search engines (64 percent) or social networking sites (71 percent) to screen candidates.

According to the respondents, legal risks and ramifications ranked as the top reason why they did not use the two Internet-based resources to screen applicants. Other top reasons included a lack of verifiable data and a lack of job-related information found through these methods.

The survey did find that a growing number of employers have developed or are in the process of developing policies for using online resources for screening applicants. According to data collected by SHRM in 2008, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of responding organizations had no formal or informal policy. The most recent poll results found that respondents reporting that their companies have no formal or informal policy had dropped to 56 percent. In the new survey, 29 percent of the respondents reported that their organizations plan to implement a policy in the next 12 months compared to 11 percent in 2008.

Among the organizations that use search engines and social networking website information, only 15 percent reported that their organizations had used information gathered by a search engine to disqualify job candidates; 30 percent reported that they had used social networking information to eliminate applicants from consideration.

Nearly a quarter of the survey participants (23 percent) indicated that job applicants included information about their social networking activities on their resumes frequently or occasionally, while 77 percent reported that applicants seldom or never included social networking information.

The SHRM survey report is titled The Use of Social Networking Websites and Online Search Engines in Screening Job Candidates. The first phase was released April 18, 2011, during the SHRM Talent and Staffing Management Conference in San Diego. Some of the results featured in the first phase of the survey cited the following top reasons why employers use social networking sites to recruit applicants:

  • To seek professionals who might not otherwise apply or be contacted by recruiters at the organization (84 percent).
  • To use a less expensive method to recruit job candidates (67 percent).
  • To increase employer brand and recognition (60 percent).
  • To target specific job seekers at a certain career level, such as entry-level candidates, managers and executives (54 percent).

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.