How to Draft a Social Media Recruitment Policy

Author: Linda Segall, Segall Enterprises

Social media recruitment (also known as social recruitment) offers organizations the opportunity to reduce recruitment costs, expand their reach to tap into a highly qualified but passive applicant base, enhance diversity and speed up the hiring process.

Social media, by its nature, gives the employer a view of applicants that traditional recruitment methods do not provide. Although the view can be enlightening, it can put the employer at risk: Once an employer accesses protected characteristics of applicants (race, creed, ethnicity, gender, marital status - even genetic information), the employer is exposed to the risk of discrimination claims.

An effective social media recruitment policy can reduce an employer's exposure to litigation.

Step 1: Convene the Relevant Decision-makers

When developing any policy, it is a good idea to include stakeholders in its development in order to ensure buy-in and compliance. Stakeholders in a social media recruitment policy may include managers from HR, public relations, marketing, information technology, as well as select hiring managers who have hard-to-fill positions and may benefit from social media recruitment.

Step 2: Define Roles in the Recruitment Process

The effective use of social media recruitment calls for cooperation and collaboration among various stakeholders identified in Step 1. Because the use of social media may well expose the employer to protected characteristics of applicants, the employer must take steps to minimize risk exposure by defining the roles of each entity involved in the recruitment process. The following questions can help the committee define roles, which will be identified in the policy:

  • Who will coordinate the recruitment process?
  • Who will update job descriptions?
  • Who will post jobs?
  • Who will place ads?
  • Who will do the initial screening of applicants?
  • Who will maintain the company's career website?
  • Who will create and maintain company pages on social media sites, such as (but not limited to) LinkedIn and Facebook?
  • Who will engage potential candidates on social media sites, such as (but not limited to) LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter?
  • Who will coordinate the engagement process?
  • Who will be responsible for documentation?

Step 3: Decide on the Scope of the Policy

The committee should decide on the scope of social media recruitment. For example the policy may state:

  • Social media recruitment will be done in conjunction with (not in lieu of) traditional recruitment methods.
  • No employee or manager will be encouraged nor permitted to add a candidate as an online contact in order to investigate the candidate's background;
  • No one is permitted to request passwords from candidates to view their social media pages;
  • No one is permitted to access public social media pages of candidates for purposes of checking background information. Any such checks will be done by HR only after candidates have been screened in person. Any pertinent information acquired by HR in these checks will be printed and documented as part of the candidate's file.
  • This policy will be applied consistently, in all instances in which social media recruitment is conducted.

Step 4: Write the Policy

An employer's social media policy should include at a minimum the following sections:

  • Purpose of the Policy. This section should define the purpose and goals of the policy by stating why it is needed as well as its desired outcomes. For example:

[Company] is committed to attracting, finding and hiring the best qualified candidates for its job openings. To achieve this goal, we have developed the following policy concerning using social media in recruitment as an enhancement to traditional recruitment methods.

  • Statement of Employment and Privacy Policies. This section should review the employer's equal employment opportunity and privacy obligations. The policy should include statements concerning compliance with all federal, state and local equal employment opportunity and privacy laws, including the Stored Communications Act (SCA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). For example:

All recruitment, whether traditional or incorporating social media, will be done in compliance with all federal, state and local laws concerning equal employment opportunity and privacy. These laws include, but are not limited to:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967;

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;

Equal Pay Act;

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986;

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act;

Stored Communications Act;

Fair Credit Reporting Act; and the

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

  • Responsibilities. In this section, the policy should spell out the roles of the various entities throughout the social media recruitment process as previously defined.
  • Scope of Social Media Recruitment. The policy should indicate the scope of social media recruitment as decided by the committee.
  • Notice to Candidates. The employer is not legally required to give notice to candidates that it may check their social media sites. However, it is recommended that the employer include this step as part of the recruitment process.

Step 5: Make Use of EEO Disclaimers

As alluded to briefly above, an employer should include prominent disclaimers on its own website, as well as any related social media page used for recruitment, stating that the business is an "Equal Opportunity Employer." If the employer makes use of a third-party to handle its social media recruiting, it must ensure that this outside recruiter not only includes disclaimers, but also complies with antidiscrimination and privacy laws.

Step 6: Distribute and Train

Once the social media policy has been written and reviewed by the legal department, the employer should distribute the policy and train all managers, emphasizing the possible legal ramifications of failing to adhere to its tenets.

Step 7: Implement and Monitor

Just like any other policy, the social media policy should be launched and monitored, not only for compliance but also for a need to update. Social media is a rapidly changing area without clearly defined legal boundaries. As these boundaries are clarified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and other entities, the employer should respond by updating the policy accordingly.

Additional Resources

How to Use Social Media in the Recruiting Process

Recruiting and Hiring > Recruiting > Social Media