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Apr 5, 2018 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, aPHR, HRCI Staff Writer

How to Avoid Making a Disastrous Hire

This article was originally published by Inc. BrandView, providing thought leadership to business executives.

Social networking sites can be invaluable research aides for sourcing new talent, but use them wisely and fairly. 

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 60 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Hiring managers for IT technology and sales roles, at 76 percent and 65 percent, respectively, are even more likely to use social networks to hire and screen candidates. Hiring managers for professional or business services positions are the least likely -- but 55 percent still research job candidates online.

Why? “Selecting the right candidate is crucial for any organization, regardless of the industry,” says Willio Elmore, SPHR, Senior Benefits and HRIS Specialist for Ultimate Medical Academy. “A bad hire reduces productivity and damages team chemistry.”

That doesn’t mean those employers are looking for reasons not to hire a candidate. Over half of the survey respondents said they are “looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job,” such as a professional portfolio and an online persona with positive posts from others about the candidate’s past work experience. Only slightly more than 20 percent say -- or admit -- they are looking for red flags.

While researching candidates on social media is certainly not illegal or unethical, make sure you have a written policy in place regarding what sites and information will be reviewed. Be clear about who should conduct those reviews and how the records regarding those reviews should be maintained.

Following a standard process is especially important if you decide not to hire a candidate after researching them online. Since social profiles can include race, color, religion, sex, marital status and national origin, you could become privy to information that cannot be used to make hiring decisions.

But even though social media research can be a valuable tool in assessing -- and avoiding potentially disastrous hires -- old-fashioned methods can still pay huge dividends.

Depending on the nature of the position, you may wish to verify an applicant’s educational background, employment history, possible criminal record, driving history, even credit history. Just make sure every candidate fills out the appropriate legal release form, that you inform them of their rights, and that you perform the same checks for every person that you hire. (The last thing you want to do is decide not to hire John because of a background check, yet hire Mary without performing the same review.)

Also, check references and consider going beyond the references provided by the candidate. Social tools make it easy to reach out to past colleagues, common connections and people in the same industry. Your network and those of key employees can be a great source of information to confirm you are making the right hiring decision.

Getting feedback from the individuals that will be working directly or indirectly with the candidate will also help ensure the candidate is the right fit, Willio advises. “These individuals are also able to ask the kind of questions that will highlight the candidate’s ability to complete the tasks that may not be captured in the job post.”

While the cost of a bad hire can be huge, the cost of a bad hiring process can be a dangerous multiplier of that cost. Investing in your HR team to ensure they’re certified to take on myriad recruitment strategies and challenges can make a huge difference. HR leaders and fellow organizational leaders should review your process to be sure it's thorough and consistent in helping you weed out poor candidates.

While different job titles may require different levels of research, make sure you keep your process -- including social media and background searches uniform within each job title. This is the best way to avoid charges of discrimination and defend your hiring decisions if they are ever questioned.