Even in Social Media

…Even in Social Media

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrating King’s Dream.

On January 21, 2013, America celebrates a day which speaks to the collision of determined social equality and bridge-building unity where a bi-racial President is sworn into office for a second term on the day that celebrates the birth of one of the most prolific catalysts in the fight for social equality in America. Congratulations President Obama and Happy Birthday Dr. King – Both men serve as role models for men and women who dream of a better life and access to equal opportunity for all.

Using this day to reflect, I can’t help but ask whether or not the outcomes of social media recruitment help support “The Dream.” Should they? Where does the biggest business social network stand in the push towards equal access and opportunity for all in America?

Here are some statistics about LinkedIn, hiring and who’s actually “Linked In”:

According to Jobvite.com’s 2011 study on Social Media and Job Search, Among those in their study with more than 150 social media contacts, 56% found a job through LinkedIn (Source: Jobvite.com’s 2011 study on Social Media and Job Search, 2011)

For every job posted on Facebook, 5.7 are posted on LinkedIn (Source: BullhornReach.com Social Recruiting Activity Report, 2012)

84% of Recruiters post jobs to LinkedIn.com (Source: BullhornReach.com Bullhorn Reach Country Report, 2012)

Countless books, webinars, seminars and articles have been created on the importance of LinkedIn for active and passive job seekers looking for a change in their career. I’ve even heard recruiters I know and trust say “If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re a nobody.” So on this day of reflection, it led me to also ask the question “Who’s not on LinkedIn??”

Here is what I found:

Of those Jobvite survey responders who found a job via LinkedIn, 61% were male and 39% were female. (Source: Jobvite.com’s 2011 study on Social Media and Job Search, 2011)

Internationally (including the US), LinkedIn users are “93% more likely to be college graduates  than the average adult online (Source: LinkedIn Marketing, 2011)

67% of US LinkedIn users have a household income of $60,000 or greater, 38% with $100,000 or greater (Source: Quantcast via BooleanBlackBelt.com, 2010)

US LinkedIn Users are 83% Caucasian, 5% Black and 4% Hispanic (Source: OhMyGov.com, 2011)

While there are no current statistics to my knowledge about the hiring of disabled individuals on LinkedIn nor LinkedIn’s compliance with ADA-friendly regulations provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services via TechRepublic.com, The following has been stated: ““If you can’t make money on LinkedIn, you’re deaf, dumb and blind,” says James Filbird of JMF International Trade Group” via SocialMediaExaminer.com

From the statistics above, you can see that there is a heavy population of upper to middle-class, non-minority male users who have had more education than most of the online. These statistics – combined with the ones above on the active pace which social recruiters use and prefer LinkedIn over other mediums – paint  a picture that perhaps social media recruitment outcomes, and the applications involved,  are not actively championing “The Dream.” Nor do they do a good job of establishing favorable outcomes for those in protected race, gender, age and ability classes.

Disparate Impact exists in Social Recruiting.

“In United States employment law, the doctrine of disparate impact holds that employment practices may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate“adverse impact” on members of a minority group. Under the doctrine, a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be proven by showing that an employment practice or policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of the protected class as compared with non-members of the protected class.[1]

The doctrine entails that “A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect.”[2] Where a disparate impact is shown, the plaintiff can prevail without the necessity of showing intentional discrimination unless the defendant employer demonstrates that the practice or policy in question has a demonstrable relationship to the requirements of the job in question.[3] This is the so-called “business necessity” defense.[1]

Disparate impact contrasts with disparate treatment. A disparate impact is unintentional, whereas a disparate treatment is an intentional decision to treat people differently based on their race or other protected characteristics.” (Source: Wikipedia, 2013)

Let’s say you’re having a party and everyone in your town has an opportunity to attend. You create flyers and put them up in certain parts of town. While everyone has an opportunity to attend, your flyers don’t appeal to everyone so not everyone sees the benefit of being at the party. In addition to that, word of mouth begins to travel quickly amongst those who’ve caught on but only in their circles of influence. Then once the party happens, you charge an above-average cost for unlimited drink tickets and those who come for free only get a few drinks and maybe some Chex Mix (because, c’mon, who doesn’t like Chex Mix?). After the party is underway you scan the crowd and notice that it appears to be a pretty homogenous group with a few outliers and as a result, the DJ is playing songs from one genre.

In a nutshell, that’s what disparate impact looks like and that has been the effect of social media recruitment on sites like LinkedIn. The numbers show that there is a higher concentration of users who come from more well-to-do circles of influence and as a result, greater concentrations of job applicants will reflect these demographic makeups. In addition, the full use of LinkedIn comes at a fee that can be seen as cost-prohibitive to some active and passive job seekers.

The counter-argument to the need for truly equal social recruiting access.

Many might argue that LinkedIn helps make the recruitment process much easier, puts “the best” candidates at your fingertips, saves an organization a lot of money on recruitment costs and helps weed out candidates who do not qualify based on qualifications and skill sets. All of those may be valid but the question with disparate impact is not the intent, rather the outcome of the process. LinkedIn cannot be held at fault for being a for-profit corporation whose mission is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” (Source: LinkedIn.com, 2013). Nor can recruiters be at fault for using a tool that promotes efficiency and effectiveness in the hiring process – especially in a time where the economy has seen the highest rates of unemployment in recent history. Americans need jobs and LinkedIn helps make that happen.

Unfortunately, by opening it’s self up to the world of recruiting, hiring and candidate selection, LinkedIn stepped into playing the role of facilitating employment practices as referenced in the definition of disparate impact above. In effect, LinkedIn has emerged beyond being a social media network and is now a trusted source for employment decisions.  I believe that it is 100% okay for a social networking site to be niche-oriented and market and attract individuals whom are interested in particular tastes and fancies. However, I do not believe that it is 100% okay for US hiring decisions to be made by predominately considering candidates who are in the niche-oriented social media site. What about the workers who are just as qualified but put little to no value in social media? What about the candidates who’d rather be working instead of surfing the web and building connections? How do we justify employment practices that draw from such a highly skewed candidate selection pool?

While Dr. King was not alive to see social media, let alone the internet, grow and be what it is today, I do not believe current social media recruiting outcomes support “The Dream.”

View our presentation on the legal implications of social media recruitment:

Is social media access truly equal?

As a multi-device internet user, I often take for granted the fact that there are individuals whom do not have equal access to the internet that I do.

In July 2012, the US Census Bureau published it’s Computer and Internet Use Study from 2010 on the internet and it is available by downloading it here:

Table 1A. Reported Internet Usage for Households, by Selected Householder Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 1B. Method of Accessing Internet at Home for Households, by Selected Householder Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 1C. Presence and Type of Computer for Households, by Selected Householder Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 2A. Reported Internet Usage for Individuals 3 Years and Older, by Selected Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 2B. Presence and Type of Computer for Individuals 3 Years and Older, by Selected Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 3A. Reported Internet Usage for Individuals 3 Years and Older, by State: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 3B. Presence and Type of Computer for Individuals 3 Years and Older, by State: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 4. Reported Computer and Internet Access, by Selected Individual Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

Table 5. Reported Activity of People Using the Internet, by Selected Individual Characteristics: 2010 [XLS – 11K] [CSV – 11K]

The results show gaping disparities in age, socioeconomic, gender and racial groups in many ways.


What do you think? Do current social recruiting outcomes support King’s Dream?