There has been an ongoing debate on who is considered the millennial generation, a Pew Research Centre has defined the generation to consist of individuals who have been born between the years of 1981 to 1996.
As with every generation, there are unique defining characteristics that define one from the other. The millennial generation are known as “digital natives” symbolising individuals who have grown up using technology like the Internet, computers and mobile devices.
This does not come as a surprise as Millennials were born and grew up at a time where the internet bubble was born, growing and burst! The first laptop, the first touchscreen, and the smart phone were launched.
1995 saw the second dotcom boom emerge; the first recognizable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997 enabling users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. In 1999, the first blogging sites became popular, creating a social media sensation that’s still popular today. Today, online content and social networks are ingrained in our daily activities with an estimated 35 billon social media users worldwide.
Through the use of technology communication has evolved from letters to emails, phone calls to text messaging, and the creation and use of social media to stay in contact and network. An opinion in the past might be passed on verbally, but now more often than not, it appears on the newsfeed of your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even as a video on YouTube and is available to a much wider audience.
In 2019, the most popular social platforms were reported to be Facebook and YouTube, tied at 74%, with Twitter in third place at 37%.
This is also a time where millennials are well into adulthood and now make up close to 50% of the workforce; with the youngest being at the age of 23. Yet the trend of narrativizing their own lives on social media is not going anyway, with 64% of millennials using social networking every day and owning an average of 8 accounts each.
Social media is no longer just a network of social activities, but a throve of information for the workforce. Based on Career Builder’s 2018 social media recruitment survey, more than 80% of job seekers will research an employer online before applying for a role and 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates during the hiring process and throughout their employment.
Reportedly, the survey also shows that more than 50% of employers found content on Social Media that lead them not to hire a candidate. Conversely 47% said they are less likely to interview job candidates if they are unable to find information about that person online.
Increasingly, both employers and employees alike seek to develop their brand through social media channels. Employers are also keen and taking actions to protect their brands as seen by the growing number of actions up to and including dismissals due to posting on social media accounts. These cases at times involved medical professionals or even celebrities who are constantly under public scrutiny.
As HR professionals untangle the complex web of recruitment in this digital age, it is a growing understanding that one has to take responsibility for their social media profile and voice, and recognise that public social media posts are no longer just for personal viewing.
Yet, it can be hard to draw the line between an employee’s personal life and work life online, and to make matters more complicated, there is not yet a social consensus on which aspects of social media life, if any, are off-limits to employers.
The internet holds a wealth of information about candidates, and online profiles and activity can paint an insightful, though not always entirely accurate, picture of a person through posts that support a candidate’s qualifications, display reviews of their work, activities and interests. It can also expose harassing or discriminatory behaviour or dishonesty, which may be reasons to reconsider a candidate.
This leaves talent managers in a tough spot, as the wealth of information on social media platforms may lead to unintended exposure of “protected” information that influences the hiring decisions such as race, religion, ethnic origin, age and other similar types of characteristics.
However, if 50% of your company hires are millennials and present on social media, the non-usage of social media screening is almost akin to turning a blind eye to information which can reduce the chances of incompetence, fraud, violence and disruptive behaviour in the workplace, and at the same time find employees who will contribute positively.
To mitigate and avoid exposure to sensitive information, HR professionals have to exercise great care when considering whether and how to sue social media screening for potential candidates. Consideration of things like the segregation of information to ensure sensitive and protected information are not taken into account in the hiring process. Additional steps can be taken such as accessing only publicly shared data or having separate personnel to screen the candidate information based on a set of structured compliant requirements which have been approved by your legal team. However, the danger of “seeing” information which should not be used in the selection process remains high if the screening is done in-house.
The complexity in social media screening, lack of manpower and legal resources and the growing emphasis on social media screening has led to the outsourcing of social media screening process to 3rd party professionals background screening companies.
This facilitates a more sophisticated and objective process and eliminates the risk of personal bias or reputational disrepute that a company might otherwise face, preventing a costly lawsuit and loss of reputation. And, of course, assists companies to hire and engage with the best fit candidates for their company.
We must all recognize that hiring processes are evolving as we move on from generation to generation, and social media screening is simply a component of an evolving screening process. As always, screening exists to make our workplaces and our society at large safer.
Elizabeth Fitzell is the Managing Director for Sterling RISQ and NCC and joined Sterling in 2016 as COO for RISQ Group. She now leads Sterling’s APAC region, with responsibility for delivering best in class background screening and identity solutions for clients and driving business growth for Sterling RISQ and NCC
Lynn Ee is the marketing manager for Sterling RISQ and oversee the marketing efforts of Sterling’s APAC region. With a keen interest in the digitalization of human resource through technology, she is the voice for Sterling RISQ’s background screening and identity solutions in APAC
This article first appear PBSA’s September Newsletter – The APAC Background Screening Report (https://preemploymentdirectory.com/pubs/apac/2019-09/APAC-Report-Sept-2019.html)