Web technology: when to use caution

Without a doubt the worldwide web has brought many benefits since its inception in the early 1990s – apart from information that is often unreliable. As every parent struggling with a child’s homework assignment knows, finding accurate information on the web can be a challenge worthy of Hercules.

One area where information should be treated with a degree of caution is on so-called social network sites, such as Facebook. How do you know the person pictured is who they say they are? How accurate are the details they give about themselves? Would you offer them a job?

It seems the latter is well within the bounds of possibility as HR departments at larger organisations employ recruiters to find candidates for vacancies. Undoubtedly they will scour social websites for likely people. They may also check out applicants’ details which have arrived via e-mail or, God forbid, the post on social network sites.

This has certain advantages but carries some risk.

Personal details held on these sites will reveal information not immediately apparent on application forms – such as race, age, appearance, social habits and so on. Useful to know maybe, but it could be a significant step along a path that leads to discrimination of one kind or another – after all, the over-40s are far less likely to have social network site presence than someone in their 20s.

It’s also likely that the use of web technology will see the spread of video CVs, a practice that is still in its infancy but will likely grow during the downturn. It may seem like a great way to attract youngsters, but again it is something that could be fraught with legal difficulties.

Of course novel recruitment methods are fine – but HR directors must ensure they are on the right side of the law.

John Charlton, editor

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