Most of us have social media profiles these days, and an increasing number of job hunters are optimising these profiles in the hope that they will help them get that next big job. How would you feel however if I told you that your social media profile may actually be helping employers to discriminate against you?
Of course, discrimination during the recruitment process is sadly a topic that we’re all too familiar with. Arguably the most famous expose of this was a study conducted by Chicago University’s Booth School. Researchers wanted to see if ethnic sounding names were inherently discriminated against when they were applying for jobs.
The researchers sent out over 5,000 real applications to help wanted ads that were posted in the Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune newspapers over a ten month period. The CVs that they sent to each job advert were identical in every single way, except on the name of the applicant. Each CV was given a randomly assigned name, with the names being either very ’white sounding’, or very ’African-American sounding’. The results were equal parts stunning and depressing. It emerged that the white sounding ’candidates’ received around 50% more call backs on their applications than the CVs with African-American sounding names attached.
How does social media impact upon this?
Whilst that is arguably one of the most well-known example of discrimination in recruitment history, another stunning example comes via a recent study by Carnegie Mellon researchers, who looked at the role social media plays in the whole affair.
The researchers wanted to test whether the information we post onto our social media profiles is actually used against us by recruiters during the application process. The study was particularly pertinent, because there are well established laws barring recruiters from using factors such as our age, religion or sex to screen candidates during the recruitment process. As much of this information is freely posted by us online however, are we scoring an own goal?
While it appears that a relatively small portion of U.S. employers regularly searches for candidates online, we found robust evidence of discrimination among certain types of employers, the researchers say.
The study focused primarily on religion, and in particular on the differences in the way a Muslim candidate and a Christian candidate are treated by recruiters. They also tested sexual discrimination by conducting a similar experiment with gay vs. straight candidates.
Discrimination is sadly all too real
The results showed that sadly, discrimination is all rather common. The study found that Muslim candidates faced significant discrimination compared to their Christian counterparts, especially within Republican leaning states. In those states, Christian candidates would be 700% more likely to receive an interview than their Muslim peers.
The only glimmer of hope from the study that there appeared to be no such discrimination against candidates based upon their sexuality, so it does appear that at least some progress has been made.
Our survey and field experiments show statistically significant evidence of hiring bias originating from information candidates shared on their online profiles, the researchers conclude.
Be careful what you post online
Whilst it would obviously be a good thing if recruiters didn’t go near your social media profiles, thus ensuring that applications are treated on their merits, in reality it would seem overwhelmingly sensible to ensure that you take care of what is posted online about you.
Have you ever been discriminated against by a recruiter? What were the reasons? Your thoughts and comments below…