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UH Moment

UH Moment: “Facebook”

Using Facebook as an applicant-selection tool may be convenient for employers, but a new survey indicates the practice creates a perception among potential applicants that the company is unfair.


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Juan Madera, assistant professor in the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, studies human resources, management and leadership in the hospitality industry. He surveyed 170 college seniors in Houston majoring in hospitality management. Half of the participants completed a survey after reading about a hypothetical company that used Facebook as ascreening tool. The other half completed a survey after reading about a company that did not.  

Juan Madera, assistant professor in the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management“What I found was that participants who read the descriptions of the hotel that used Facebook as a screening tool were more likely to perceive the company as unfair and less likely to apply for a job there than those who read descriptions of companies that didn’t engage in those tactics,” he said.  “They may feel that this is an invasion of their privacy, preferring the company secure this information through the job interview or personality tests.”

Previous surveys Madera has conducted asked industry recruiters the extent to which they used social media to screen applicants.  More than half indicated they did.  Eighteen percent indicated they had a social media policy against using social media as a screening tool.

“The problem may be in the way employers framed their use of Facebook,” he said. “If it’s framed as part of the screening process, they could be turning away good applicants, and there are so many valid tools to use for a selection process.  From a human resourcesperspective, if you’re relying on Facebook, there’s something wrong.”  

Madera said the survey results are significant as more organizations, particularly in the hospitality industry, make use of newer technologies and social networkvenues to advertise and recruit.  He says employers should be cautious of the potential legal implications of using Facebook and social networks as many users post personal information that is protected by employment laws, such as their age, disability, religious affiliation orpregnancy.  

“I don’t think employers who screen with social media do so with the intent to be negative, but rather see it as a way to verify information,” he said. “Still, there are potential negative consequences because they’ll find too much information not related to the job.”  

The study was published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.