Publishing personal information online: How employers’ access, observe and utilise social networking sites within selection procedures

Janneke Hoek, Paula O'Kane, Martin McCracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to examine employers’ use of social networking sites (SNSs) within employee selection.Design/methodology/approach– In-depth interviews were conducted with 15 organisations to gain an understanding of how they accessed, observed and utilised data from SNSs in their selection procedures, as well as gaining an insight into employers’ perceptions of candidate privacy and discrimination.Findings– SNS profiles were either accessed as part of an organisation’s official selection process, through integrating internet screening as part of the formal process and obtaining candidate permission, or through covert (without consent) observation. Facebook was primarily used to identify a candidate’s organisation fit and make assessment of their soft skills, whereas LinkedIn distinguished their professional attributes and their job fit. Problems were associated with the extent to which SNSs were reflective of the person and whether a candidate’s personal life reflected their work persona. Respondents focused more upon the legality, rather than the ethics, of accessing “private” information via SNSs.Research limitations/implications– Further research is needed to consider the content and predictive validity of SNSs as a selection tool before their utility can be ascertained.Practical implications– Organisations should have a clear goal when utilising SNSs, be aware of the value of the information and consider how it complements other selection tools. Selectors should have integrity throughout the selection process, view SNSs as a support tool and use their common sense.Originality/value– The in-depth nature of this research enabled the authors to understand how and why organisations are currently utilising SNSs within selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-83
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Mar 2015


  • Qualitative
  • Social network sites
  • Person-job fit
  • Person-organization fit
  • Personnel selection


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