Social recruiting is ubiquitous today and it’s probably a large portion of your sourcing process. With all of that useful candidate data up front and readily available, it can be challenging to avoid false assumptions based on bias (which you may not even realize is influencing your choices). These assumptions can be costly.

Don’t lose out on great talent due to unconscious recruiting bias or misconstrued information. Let’s walk through a simple and effective process for utilizing the wealth of information that can be found on social media without inadvertently making unfair assessments of candidates.

Step 1: Create a rubric to use while sourcing on social media.


Draft a formalized list of the required qualifications to remain focused as you search for that elusive purple squirrel. This will help you to identify the qualities that are truly important to the role without focusing on the personal information that you will likely find while sourcing on social media.

Ben Dattner, an organizational development consultant and executive coach, points out that these rubrics are important as they are an effective way of transforming a highly subjective process into a quantitative one. This will help address any unconscious biases that may be present and keep you focused on key information, not the extraneous personal information that can cloud your perception of a candidate.

A guide to crafting a “candidate rubric”

A) Initially focus on education

Does this candidate have the required education? Yes or no. Don’t get trapped into focusing on the name of the school the candidate attended, when the candidate attended school, or any other piece of subjective information that might subtly influence your early choices.

B) Consider multiple titles that could fit your ideal candidate

Before you begin sourcing, make a list of the various titles that your candidate might have. This list will serve as a reference so that you won’t be forced to make split-second decisions while trying to quickly qualify candidates. Having a list of relevant job titles will also prevent you from allowing information such as the candidate’s perceived age, gender, or profile image alter the decision.

C) List the candidate’s skill set

Make this list of required skills as detailed as possible and avoid listing soft skills (at least at first). A detailed list will help you to remain focused on the specific skills that your candidate must have without being derailed by impressive, but perhaps irrelevant qualifications.

As with assessing a candidate’s experience, this list will also help you to stick to the listed requirements without being swayed by any personal information you may come across during the sourcing process. Because soft skills are so difficult to assess on paper, it’s best not to focus on them until the interview stage. The candidate with the larger social following may not necessarily be a more outgoing sales rep than the candidate with only a handful of followers, yet it can be easy to make assumptions like this when you are crunched for time.

This rubric will also serve as an excellent reference for you, as you will already have all of your best candidates’ information broken down into relevant categories.

Note: Utilizing a numerical rating system along with this rubric will ensure that you are assessing each candidate using the same criteria.

Step 2: Understand which sites may be doing more harm than good while assessing candidates.

There’s a desire to learn as much about a candidate as possible prior to reaching out to them. Research is key part of nearly every recruiting stage and it’s understandable, since you want to ensure that the candidate will be a great fit for your hiring manager and their existing team.

While culture fit is important, it’s also important to ensure that you’re not delving too deeply into candidates’ profiles and discounting qualified candidates based on findings that are not relevant to the job.

A 2015 SHRM survey indicated that over 50% of HR pros had concerns about the legal implications that social sourcing could have on the hiring process. Combat this growing concern by focusing on relevant, firm candidate data (not opinion-based findings).

Adopt a winning formula

One way to avoid this type of recruiting bias is to develop a social sourcing process so that you’re assessing candidates in a more formulaic way. For instance, start your social sourcing journey on LinkedIn or another professional site and then move into the more personal sites if need be. Consistently sourcing candidates using the same social networks is a good way to ensure that you’re not digging deeply into some candidates’ personal information, yet only using one or two sites to qualify others.

Here’s one example of an effective sourcing strategy:

Utilize LinkedIn to gain a sense of the candidate’s hard qualifications:

  • years of experience
  • contact information
  • other key points on your hiring rubric

If severe gaps in your sourcing rubric are left after this, then turn to other professional sites like GitHub or AngelList. These sites are created for professionals to share their skills and experiences, they should provide you with work-related information to utilize when making your decision.

If these professional social sites fail you, then turn to the more personal sites, but try to focus on only the information that you need. Many sites have the option of listing information such as the candidate’s religion, political preferences, and other information that could subconsciously influence your choice to contact them (or not).

In your sourcing process, develop your formula for efficiently moving through the social sites you rely heavily upon versus those that should be left as last resorts.

While many candidates provide information such as their job title on Facebook and Twitter, most don’t when using sites like Snapchat or Instagram. These sites that don’t provide useful “hard” information should be saved for last (if used at all).

Removing bias is tough

Social sourcing is an important part of the job, but it can present issues when candidate’s are not assessed using the same criteria. Creating a systematic process will give candidates equal opportunities as they progress through the hiring process.

Unfortunately, completely eliminating bias in this field isn’t a reality yet. We’re all human, after all. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to reduce the risk of bias seeping into your everyday strategy and results. The steps above may sound tedious and time-consuming, but having a workflow to justify your decision-making process will be beneficial in the long run.

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For more information on recruiting bias and detailed steps on removing it from your recruiting process check out our free eBook.

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