LinkedIn’s new emphasis on summaries, photos, and usernames makes the profiles look more like online résumés -- just in time for LinkedIn to make a play for 50 percent of its existing clients’ recruiting budgets through its Hiring Solutions suite.
Hiring Solutions accounted for 53 percent of LinkedIn’s Q2 revenues; but if LinkedIn puts too many eggs into this particular basket, it may backfire. Indeed, companies could hesitate to use LinkedIn as their primary hiring tool due to liability issues.
Here’s why: Social media experts and career coaches have touted LinkedIn as “the new résumé,” and for good reason. LinkedIn profiles rank high in search results; allow candidates to provide information that may not fit on a traditional résumé; and make recruiters feel as if they’re getting a more complete view of the candidate. But the new LinkedIn profiles, which debuted quietly in mid-August, feature the user pictures more prominently -- and in the traditional world of résumés, pictures are a legal no-no.
In the pre-LinkedIn era, omitting a photo meant that hiring managers would focus on a candidate’s qualifications, not her or his appearance. Job seekers would specifically be warned by career counselors not to include pictures, and with the proliferation of anti-discrimination laws, hiring managers appreciated the omission. That way, when they didn’t call someone in for an interview, it was based purely on the candidate’s qualifications, or lack thereof.
LinkedIn has always had the option for users to upload a tasteful, professional photo; now, though, that photo is a lot bigger. This turns the traditional résumé wisdom on its head, because instead of qualifications being front and center, the photo of the candidate is the first thing profile visitors see.
For companies trying to avoid discrimination lawsuits, this can be a problem. It raises the specter that candidates who don’t fit into a particular standard of beauty, sex, age group, or even race may get passed over because of their appearance.
Employers in a lawsuit-happy culture must delicately walk the tightrope between using LinkedIn to recruit top talent and using LinkedIn as a way to conduct background checks. User profiles are key to finding the right person for the job, but when they’re being used to vet someone before the interview, candidates can see that as discrimination if they don’t get hired. And during economic downturns, discrimination claims increase. Even if the claims are baseless, they still cost time and money for an employer to fight -- money that could be spent on research and development, marketing, or other essential items.
Savvy companies know this. Their legal teams tell them they need a solid social media policy before using any form of social media, even LinkedIn, for recruiting. They know not to use social media to screen candidates. They know not to refuse to hire someone based on what they find on a social media site.
The solution? If companies do expand their use of LinkedIn for recruiting, they’ll need to be able to filter out profile pictures. Otherwise, they risk opening themselves up to discrimination claims.
— Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.