Social Media in Human Resources: An Interview with Johnny Taylor Jr.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, just to name a few, have become the secret recruiting weapon for employers. More and more recruiters are using these sites to obtain a better understanding of the personality and lifestyle of potential job candidates that could positively or negatively influence their position in the organization.

Johnny C. Taylor, President and CEO of, shares with Human Resources IQ how employers searching for top talent can benefit from using such social media.

What is your opinion on employers using social media such as Facebook as a recruiting strategy? Do you think this is a violation of privacy?

As I've said in previous settings, I have no problem with employers exploring social networks to learn more about a prospective employee. It's but one way we can conduct information-gathering about someone, provided we verify any negative information and not take it as conclusive.

It is not a privacy issue, in my opinion, because no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy when they create an account on the free and open Internet and begin volunteering a window into their lives.

What purpose do human resources professionals have when poking around on these social networking sites? What are they looking for?

Ultimately, we employers are trying to increase our chances of finding the right "fit" in our new organization (fitness meaning technical credentials and cultural/values fit). While I would never condone conducting unauthorized searches into people's lives (credit, criminal, etc.), I think it totally proper and fair to glean publicly-available information like that easily found on Internet social networks.

How much of an influence do these social networking sites have on an employer's decision to hire job candidates?

First, most human resources departments aren't surfing social networks as a common part of their recruitment process. While we are increasingly turning to them (especially for new college graduates), I wouldn't call it a common practice. However, it's not at all uncommon for applicants and employers to conduct a quick Google search on someone in advance of an interview.

For employers who do review social networking sites, anything we learn is but one piece of information factored into the entire hiring process. In other words, the results are a data point amongst several.

I do, however, know of one situation where someone was rejected as a candidate for a role when the potential employer found a photo on the candidate's Facebook page of him scantily-clad on a Gay Pride parade float. The employer thought this was not becoming and counter to their culture.

As a human resources professional, you have developed recruiting and evaluation strategies for potential job candidates. What do some of these strategies entail and do you incorporate social media as a tactic?

Yes, I have and will continue to use the whole of the Internet in my recruitment process. From visiting social networks to find candidates (looking for HBCU and Ivy-league graduates) to conducting Internet searches to determine if there are published stories (good and bad) about a candidate in advance of an interview, I'll increasingly incorporate this technology into my process.

What should both employers and potential candidates keep in mind when utilizing social media?

Employers should keep in mind that not everything on the Internet is true. So, it is imperative and only fair that they try to independently confirm the truth of any negative comments or information found at a social network. Applicants, assume your parents access your social network every day—so no lies, compromising pictures, etc. Then the social networks can't hurt you.