Through the post below, the NJHR Blog is pleased to introduce a guest blogger!

As social networks continue to soar in popularity, employers are reacting in sometimes unexpected ways. The New Jersey Human Resources blog has discussed some of the ways managers are handling employee activity online, and the coming post takes a look at the growing trend of using social networking profiles to fill open positions.

In her guest blog post (below), education writer Emma Collins walks readers through this new form of recruitment, but not without first identifying some of the legal pitfalls.

Emma is on staff with higher ed web magazine MBAOnline; more info about MBAOnline.com's 2012 program rankings is available free of charge to all who are interested.

Welcome Emma! ... and thanks for the informative post. 

Changing Recruiting Strategies Revolutionize the Resume... But What About the Law?

In the digital age, web-based job recruitment has all but rendered the traditional resume obsolete. Employers today utilize a wide range of Internet resources in order to engage qualified candidates, while applicants reach out to companies using sites like LinkedIn and Monster.com. But even as online tools have simplified the hiring process, employers must still contend with the legalities of equal opportunity recruitment.

Historically, job-seekers have devoted time and energy to craft resumes that showcase their educational background, professional experience, and expertise relevant to the position at hand. Computer-based resumes first appeared in the 1980s, but these were essentially digital versions of the standard document; even as the World Wide Web took shape in the 1990s, employment profile and job recruitment sites were still a decade away.

Then, in 2003, a site named LinkedIn was launched. Unlike other recruiter websites that required applicants to complete a digital resume form, LinkedIn allowed users to create profiles that incorporated all the requisite resume information but presented it using a more laid-back, easily searchable interface. Employers were cool to the idea at first, but in recent years the site has recorded impressive growth. In early 2012, Forbes contributor John Bersin reported that LinkedIn’s stock jumped nearly 20 percent in a single day; the company’s quarterly revenues increased 105-percent in year-to-year growth, and analysts projected its 2012 revenues would reach $860 million.

The site’s recruiting segment performed particularly well. Revenues increased 136 percent to reach nearly $85 million, making LinkedIn the fastest growing public resource for corporate recruitment. Bersin notes that these LinkedIn figures exceed some of the site’s strongest competitors, such as Taleo and Monster. Today, the company’s recruitment page offers a wide range of services for both employers and job applicants; these include “Job Postings” that enable employers to post positions and buy ad space, “Employment Branding” resources that allow companies to build a LinkedIn-based career site, and “Talent Pipeline” tools that help HR professionals manage the influx of applicants for each vacant position.

But LinkedIn is not the only web-based job recruitment resource. Other job posting sites like Indeed and Monster organize vacant positions by industry or sector and present them using a comprehensive, user-friendly database. Some larger companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing, have created virtual networks that enable job-seekers to directly apply for positions online. Even the preeminent USAJobs.gov uses this format for all vacant positions made available through the federal government. And Klout, one of the less conventional recruitment sites to emerge in recent years, calculates the user’s “influence” score (on a 1-100 scale) and allows them to build their influence by networking with fellow users and optimizing the visibility of their personal profile.

Even in the Internet age, however, employers must abide by a strict set of regulations put in place to ensure that each applicant is hired fairly. Attorney Catherine L. Moreton notes that numerous legislative initiatives and Supreme Court decisions -- including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family & Medical Leave Act -- dictate how individuals are hired in the modern age. While LinkedIn, Klout and other sites might have replaced the resume,

Moreton argues that employer strategies to navigate these regulations have not changed. In order to ensure their company is engaged in diverse recruitment practices, hiring officials should refrain from “word-of-mouth advertising,” post open positions internally (and advertise them externally), and avoid using terms that provoke certain qualities that could be associated with race, religion, or gender. Moreton also suggests using the application to “create a defense” against potential complaints by including an equal opportunity statement and oath of accuracy to be signed by the applicant. An at-will employee statement and (if relevant) an authorization for testing should also be initiated prior to hiring. She urges employers to use the interview period to spot any “red flags” that might not have been visible in the individual’s application, and advises recruiters to follow-up the interview with a federal background check to ensure the applicant does not have a criminal history that conflicts with the vacant position.

While the template for presenting information to prospective employers has changed, the process of hiring job candidates has largely remained the same. Today’s employers and applicants are encouraged to utilize the wealth of web-based employment resources at their disposal, while hiring officials are urged to maintain equality as they recruit candidates for positions with their company.