The Impact of Online Recommendations on the Evaluation Process. Identification of Changes in the Recruiter’s Perception of Applicants

Bachelor Thesis, 2016

74 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1 How Professional Social Networking Sites influence Recruiting Processes

2 Literature-based Findings for the Role of Recommendations in the Evaluation Process and Background Knowledge about Online Social Networks
2.1 Role of Recommendations in the Screening and Selection Process
2.1.1 Research Background and Terminology
2.1.2 Literature Review: Usage of Recommendations
2.2 Social Networking Sites in Evaluation Processes: Focus on the Professional Network LinkedIn
2.2.1 Definition
2.2.2 Capabilities and Objectives of Social Networking Sites for the HR Department
2.2.3 LinkedIn

3 Identifying the Influence of LinkedIn Recommendations on the Evaluation Process: Primary Study Goal, Design and Results
3.1 Status Quo and Goal of the Primary Study
3.2 Primary Study: Usage of Online Recommendations in the Evaluation Process
3.2.1 Design and Execution of the Online Survey
3.2.2 Sample Size
3.3 Results of the Online Survey

4 Findings, Optimization Recommendations and Future Development of Professional Networks for Selection Purposes
4.1. Role of LinkedIn Recommendations on Selection Processes
4.2 Evaluation Recommendations
4.3 Limitations and Future Utility

Reference list

List of Figures

List of Tables

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3


Human Resources practices are undergoing major changes driven by technology innovations, especially with regards to the evaluation process. Social networking sites and the vast amount of freely available information about individuals allow for extensive conclusion drawing before even meeting a candidate. Although 97.3% of recruiters said they have used LinkedIn as a selection and recruiting tool back in 2012 already, there has been little empirical research conducted on how social networks influence the process. The paper on hand focuses on the role of the well-known business network ‘LinkedIn’, the accuracy of information provided online and more precisely on the credibility of recommendations submitted online. The overarching goal is to identify changes in recruiter’s perception of a candidate with regards to quantity, quality and source of online recommendations.

By taking into account various studies and selected literature regarding the influence of recommendations on the selection process, the author gained extensive understanding of previously identified factors and their respective impact. In addition, a primary study in form of an online survey has been conducted among recruiters to receive insights into the evaluation process in today’s recruiting divisions.

Outcomes reveal that attributing value to online recommendation in inevitable in nowadays selection practices. Moreover, the recommendation donor has a profound impact on the credibility: family and friends are not deemed credible whereas work-related parties such as co-workers and immediate management are favored and their assessment is validated. Lastly, the quantity of recommendations does not hold significant value with regards to assessing credibility.

Key words: Selection, Recommendations, LinkedIn, Human Resources Practices, Social Networking Sites, Social Media

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 How Professional Social Networking Sites influence Recruiting Processes

‘It is just as important for job seekers to be on social media as it is for recruiters to use it to find talent’. (SHRM 2015) These findings published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2015 summarize the current situation accurately and emphasize the need to include Social Networking Sites (SNS) and their various options into the selection process. (Wright 2015) The commencement was observed more than a decade ago. Ensher et al. ascertained that HR professionals use technology, and foremost the varieties offered by the Internet, to advance their selection routine. (Ensher et al. 2002, p. 226; Schlesinger 2014, p. 1)

There has been published findings that state the opposite, such as declared in the book ‘Personalbeschaffung-kompakt!’, that only a small part of her interviewed people regard SNS as easing personnel selection processes. (Rohrlack 2012, p. 78) Ascertained is, that despite observing an extensive increase in data readily available to the recruiter since approximately two decades, the job-relevance of obtained information is still questionable. (Davison et al. 2011b, p. 14) Moreover, although the impact of SNS influences daily practices in close to every company’s HR department, there has been little research conducted on how exactly those sites are used within selection standards. (Brown and Vaughn 2011, p. 219) Consequences are largely unknown. (Davison et al. 2011a, p. 154)

Becoming aware of these changes was the trigger for the target of the thesis on hand, which is to add to the scientifically research on usage of professional SNS within selecting personnel. As there have been findings regarding different aspects of online profiles, such as pictures, (e.g. Utz 2010) or provided personal information, it is decided to curtail the topic to the parts of the profile which are added by a third party. Therefrom, the focus is set on the influence of recommendations given online on the recruiter’s perception of a candidate. Especially the credibility of given statements depicts the focal point of the research. Moreover, the author realized during initial literature review that there exist little to no advice regarding how to handle information found on SNS. Hence, providing practical hints on how to work most effectively with information provided within recommendations on online profiles represents a subordinated goal.

Disclosing changes in the recruiter’s perception of applicants influenced by online recommendations is thus the overall goal of the paper on hand which introduced reasons for conducting extended research on this matter within chapter one. Literature-based findings regarding expectations towards recommendation and usage of the same are reviewed in chapter two. The second part constitutes an overview of SNS capabilities and the specifics of recommendations given within the professional SNS LinkedIn Inc. (LinkedIn). To seize existing research, theory findings and the status quo of recent studies relating to the author’s primary study objective, an online survey was compiled. Composition, execution and results of it are to be found in chapter three. The final chapter presents the identified role of online recommendations on LinkedIn alongside with impulses on how to incorporate them advantageously into the decision making process. The thesis closes with limitations of the research and provides an outlook on the future development and utility of online recommendations.

As the topic on hand is subject to undergoing changes and renewals, the author focused on literature emerging majorly from the past five years. Only a minority of articles and books are from about a decade ago or elder to receive insights into the traditional use of recommendations. The paper mainly speaks from the perspective of the recruiting department thus excluding the other side, the applicants. With the ‘recruiter’ it will be referred to anyone taking care of screening candidate’s applications and being involved in the selection process. The author is aware that individual handling of these tasks are practiced, meaning that HR and recruiting comply different tasks across companies and countries.

For simplified readability solely the male form is used within this document.

2 Literature-based Findings for the Role of Recommendations in the Evaluation Process and Background Knowledge about Online Social Networks

2.1 Role of Recommendations in the Screening and Selection Process

2.1.1 Research Background and Terminology

There is no doubt among recent literature publications that the Internet and advances in information technology (IT) play a major role in companies. They altered Human Resource (HR) processes significantly by broadening the spectrum of recruitment, and thus also selection, measurements. (Getha-Taylor 2010, p. 171; Davison et al. 2011a, p. 153; Scholz 2011, p. 222)

In general, HR processes can be divided into five key categories, namely: acquiring, rewarding, developing, protecting, and retaining employees. (Scholz 2011, pp.13) In the course of the paper the author will exclusively focus on the first mentioned part and in particular on the initial phase of acquiring a new employee: screening and making consecutive selective decisions. Attracting employees will not be part of the research on hand.

Selection practices vary among industries and are typicially geared towards the job description of a vacany. Techniques include beneath the checking on qualifications, traditional paper tests, computer -based tests, provision of work samples or whole assessment centres. Famous ways are also checking on backgrounds and recommendations as well as personal and group interviews. (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2003, p. 3) Numerous other indicators are used, if needed for a respective job.

In his thesis Ramsay describes one goal of selection: finding the best possible people to gain a competitive advantage over other organizations offering similar products or services. (Ramsay 2002, p. 1). The selecting process initially refers to the screening of all submitted applications, which is also called pre-selection. The next stage is to select from the firstly filtered pool those which are considered for further handling. Steps include introducing the application to other involed parties of selection, contacting the candidate and data managing (Faerber et al. 2003, p. 2330) Latest developments in HR processing, including the before mentioned IT supported administration advanced selection procedures. Electronic selection (e-selection) largely helps easen the organization and administration of applicants. (Scholz 2011, p. 220) Compared to traditional methods, e-selection provides several benefits including reductions in costs as well as time due to innovative ways of sharing data, such as cloud-based services. In general, e-selection allows unleashed resources within HR to work less administrative but more strategical. (Werner 2013, p. 2) Faerber et al. indicate that new generations of information systems allow for the shift from administration to the emerge of novel selection practices, including usage of bio data for automated candidate recommendation making (Faerber et al. 2003, p. 2332)

A common practice of personnel selection is to make use of a vast variety of information sources to arrive at an outright and coherent picture of a candidate. (Schlesinger 2014, p. 1) In-line with the described is where recommendations set in as these allow to capture yet another angle of the application. They also depict an option for homogenously qualified candidates to be distincted from one another (Knouse 1983, p. 331). Commonly, screening of applications includes checking on recommendations with the precondition that these are provided in written form. Verifying provided statements via telephone or in person is usually practiced at a later stage, e.g. closer to inviting a potential candidate for a face-to-face interview, which is yet another important element of the selection process. (Robertson and Cooper 2010, p. 27) The goal of any recommendation check is to retrieve information about former job performance and characteristic traits (Robertson and Cooper 2010, p. 27). Recommendations may be given in person, via telephone, in a written letter, or can be electronically submitted, such as via email, SNS, personal websites, and the like. In the following, the focus is set solely on the comparison of traditional LoR and written online recommendations, here exclusively the option offered by LinkedIn, which is described in detail within Chapter 2.2.3.

In the context of personnel selection, the simplified definition of a recommendation is the ‘decision on the person's suitability for the job’ (Zysberg and Nevo 2004, p. 120). Deriving from overall literature-review, the author specifies the term ‘recommendation’ in the following as: the act of voluntarily giving statements about another person’s work and/or characteristics who uses it to verify respective qualifications for a job fit. The overarching goal of any selection and thus recommendation evaluation is to match a candidate’s skills and competences with the values of a company as well as the job-specific requirements (Faerber et al. 2003, p. 2332).

The delimitation of LoRs to references issued by a former employer is explained next. Reference letters are commonly based on employee appraisal forms which were collected during the time with a company. One has to acknowledge that these certificates of employments follow strict schemata and are subject to legal restrictions. Legal conditions demand for truthful statements with the exception that there are no lines allowed which could limit the future employability of a candidate. (Rohrlack 2012, p. 88 and p. 119) Sometimes also cultural aspects deny the usage of any negative commenting (Liu et al. 2009, p. 488) or even the personal fear of being sued for providing deprecatory statements (Kulik 2004, p. 54) Thus, references have to be complaisant. There also exists a special language for writing references; however, it is questionable in how far it is used correctly by everyone. (Weissenböck 2011) Furthermore, references have to be issued by former employees whereas recommendations are based on voluntariness by the donor, who can be anyone in principle. First mentioned are therefore composed more general. Recommendations frequently address specific persons and are composed from the ‘I’ perspective. (Mai 2015; Luthy and Feathers n.d.) Consequently, references clearly differ from the subjective nature of LoRs. (Staufenbiel 2014) What they do have in common is that both contain information with reference to the past and allow only very limited interference to future developments of a person. Further, both usually include quantitative and qualitative identifications of a person, whereas the last ones are difficult to be traced back objectively (Faerber et al 2003, p. 2333)

Geographical-wise, the Angloand South-American areas operate ahead of Europe as in these regions handing in applications with LoRs is an invariable custom. (Mai 2015) Compared to e.g. Germany the rate of applicants submitting recommendations with the initial application was as low as 10% in 2011 (Frey 2011). However, nowadays recommendations are more commonly included in applications and thus checking on them to evaluate a potential candidate becomes a standard process (Pitkänen 2010, p. 14). They help to complete the hitherto profile of a candidate and support the attempt to gain a wholesome picture before even meeting a candidate in person.

In the following, the proactive connoted term ‘applicant’ and the rather passive term ‘candidate’ will be used to describe anyone attempting to get in or being within the consideration circle of a recruiter.

2.1.2 Literature Review: Usage of Recommendations

Mostly, screening of applications takes place within the first step of the recruitment process. According to Rohrlack (2012, p. 100) obtaining of recommendations represents already a subsequent step together with a personnel questionnaire or a telephone interview. Nevertheless, using them within any step of the selection process can evolve helpful to support the decision making process. Even right before extending an offer it may prove decisive to check recommendations for another confirming or disconfirming argument.

In this subchapter literature findings with regards to LoRs and online recommendations in particular are depicted. Questions regarding the format, quality and content, quantity, role of the donor and lastly the usage and legal issues are to be clarified. The author chose enumerated aspects to gain insights into the current status and general expectations towards recommendation.


As mentioned before, there are various ways of submitting recommendations and thus also the format can differ tremendously as there are no predesigned fixed standards given. (Mai 2015) Looking at LoRs in general, already the outer appearance of the letter influences decision makers to a certain degree. Being crease-free, clean and containing an official letter head are important features. What applies for both, LoR and online recommendations, is that any usage of colloquial language seems less serious and therefore may lead to questioning the credibility (compare to the ‘donor’ section of this subchapter). The same is true for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors which may lead to disregard eventually. (Weissenböck 2011) Regarding the length, longer letters are preferred over compendious ones (Liu et al. 2009, p. 477).

With regards to the form, according to Frey (2011) telephone calls are favored as these are deemed discrete. Furthermore, recruiters have the chance to read between the lines based on tonality and the option to ask further questions in case of ambiguities. This opinion goes along with application advice published by Staufenbiel (2014), which states that recruiters prefer personal, mostly telephone, recommendations over written ones. According to Maximilian Schumacher, recruiter for Allianz Germany, the fact that someone provides a reference or even just a reference name shows that the candidate does not have anything to hide. (Off 2015)

Quality and Content

What Knouse has stated in 1983 already (p. 332) is still confirmed in current literature: It is important for the donor to refer to specific projects or tasks of the person in question, to describe characteristics in detail and avoid vague expressions at all costs. (Frey 2011) Foss is completely affirmative of this and highlights the importance of being specific (Foss 2013). Singh (n.d) adds that blandly expressions do not foster the evaluation process and may even lead to non-recognition of the whole statement. Precision is the key to attain credibility. (Kern 2014; Mai 2015)

The tone should be professional but keep the reader interested at the same time. Details about the relationship and length of knowing the recommendation receiver are essential formalities to mention. (Kern 2014)

One may differentiate between the focus of a recommendation: either the personality of a person is reflected or the accomplishments are depicted. The first one concentrates on characteristic traits, norms and values of a person whereas the latter uses output, accomplished targets and potential as the base. Some recommendations also represent a mixed version of these variances. (Rohrlack 2012, pp. 91)

A traditional written recommendation gains credibility by providing the direct dial to the donor and the original signature. (Mai 2015) This is not applicable for online recommendations. One has to keep in mind that statements submitted on platforms like LinkedIn are categorized as ‘public’ opposite to private recommendations which are usually written for one specific purpose only. The categorization may influence the content significantly (Kern 2014)

Recommendations not only contain relevant information about a candidate but usually also display phrases which do not help in evaluating an applicant’s fit to a certain job description. Differeneciating them from the decisive ones is crucial. (Tommais et al. 1998, pp. 5-7) Concluding, both, traditional and online recommendations have to have in common that their content has to be specific in describing characteristics or contributions to elected projects.


Determining a benchmark for the quantity of recommendations on professional SNS such as LinkedIn is rather subjective. However, according to Singh, three are required as a minimum whereas everything exceeding ten recommendations lacks credibility. It also consumes a lot of reading time which eventually makes it difficult to evaluate them. (Singh, n.d.) Again, his opinion is congruent with the one given by Frey (2011) stating that too many recommendations arouse suspiciousness. Yet Mai (2015) marks one as a minimum but three as a maximum. Off declares that it is better to have none instead of one. (Off 2013)

On the contrary, there also exist cases where companies ask for a certain number of recommendations to be provided as they already expect the first three to display merely positive content. By demanding e.g. 12 recommendations, they aim to receive more straightforward statements. (Kulik 2004, p. 54)


The writer of a recommendation plays a decisive role when it comes to making decisions about the credibility. (Knouse 1983, p. 333) A designated source should know the receiver for a significant time frame and have respective understandings, meaning first-hand knowledge, of the abilities and characteristic traits of the person requesting the recommendation. (Aamodt et al. 1993, p. 82; Luthy and Feathers n.d.) However, a donor is usually biased as he can be elected by the receiver himself. (Kulik 2004, p. 54; Liu et al. 2009, p. 476) That is why in general the content of a recommendation is less interesting and of significance than the donor himself. Going along with the just mentioned suspiciousness arises the issue of incentives influencing the donor in his statement making. Incentives might not only include loyalty towards the recipient but gratitude or even financial means. (Winter 1997, p. 253)

It is to be differentiated between three categories of potential recommendation donors (cp. Table 1), whereas each serves a special purpose.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1 Categorization of Recommendation Donors

Source: translated from Rohrlack 2012, p. 91

The depicted table goes in line with Frey’s (2011) valuation which says that trustworthy donors are characterized by being at least one hierarchical level above the recipient, having led or trained the person and enjoying an upright reputation. Also, according to Frey’s article published in 2011 and referring to hypothesis two, recommendations which do not hold relevant value usually come from friends, family, neighbors and related parties. Mai (2015) agrees on both, the hierarchical step and the private circle’s non-credibility. Other opinions even declare recommendations given by named parties as unprofessional (Off 2013). These are also not displayed within Table 1. Holding a respected position is important for a credible source according to Luthy and Feathers (n.d.) as well. Listed donors and their reputation build the base to be compared with the author’s survey outcomes.

As mentioned in the ‘Content’ section, another commonly observed case is that recommendations contain solely affirmative aspects and subsequently allow little to no inferences to the respective receiver’s personality. (Knouse 1983, p. 332; Aamodt et al. 1993, p. 82; Winter 1997, p. 249; Kulik 2004, p. 54) Observations revealed that if the recommendation is not being displayed to the receiver but only e.g. to the potential employer the validity increases due to less clemency. (Liu et al. 2009, p. 489)

On the other hand, the recommendation giver also needs to take into consideration effects on his reputation. Being perceived as a team player and demonstrating the ability to praise other people’s skills are a positive effect. (Kern 2014) Adversely, if composing a whitewashed statement but the candidate does not conform to the buildup picture, the evaluator will not take into serious consideration any following recommendations submitted by the donor. To circumvent such events, Winter described the idea of incentivizing or respectively, punishing the donor if the candidate diverges significantly from the statements given. (1997, p. 254) Luthy and Feathers (n.d.) even mention the possibility of being sued if the recommended individual does not meet the stated standards. On the opposite, one should not underestimate the impact a well-written recommendation can have, as the receiver might get incited to perform up to the described picture of him. (Winter 1997, p. 258) That is why the qualification of a recommendation donor influences the quality of the same significantly. Being able to issue a fair and differentiated statement about the person in question is a prerequisite (Liu et al. 2009, p. 476). Lastly, the circumstances under which a recommendation is written are also decisive. A busy environment facilitates inconsistencies and the donor may fail to draw an adequate picture of the candidate. (Tommais et al. 1998, p. 6)


Preferably, recommendations support the selection process by underlining a candidate’s fit to a certain position or company. They should facilitate to receive an objective third party picture of a person and thereby complete their self-depiction. Yet, the reality often deviates from this target. This and the fact that the task of evaluating and weighing given information adequately in a recommendation is objectively definable challenge the usability of recommendation. Inconsistencies detected in studies focusing on this matter foster the discordance. (Tommasi et al. 1998, p. 5 and p. 14).

Singh (n.d.) argues in his article ‘Can Recruiters still rely on LinkedIn Recommendations?’ that there is a large lack of usability as anyone can donor anybody a short statement within no time and the content is not verified by any party. It may thus hold neither meaningful nor veridical statements. Frey (2011) agrees by describing the mistrust towards online recommendations due to the courtesy of possible reciprocal writing of the same. LinkedIn supports this circle by offering it as an automated process: if receiving a recommendation, the user is asked if he wants to return a statement about the donor. However, it is a natural process to receive more recommendations if giving others one as most people feel obligingness. (Kern 2014)


As with many new emerging issues within the internet, legally-wise there have not been enough cases defined to ensure everyone is using the provided information solely fairly and correctly. The usage of information found online is subject to a legal gray area. Accessing them online is legal as they are freely available. However, using them as a decision base is neither legally regulated nor deemed as an appropriate selection base yet. (Brown and Vaughn 2011, p. 221; Rohrlack 2012, p. 119) To protect themselves from providing a ground for being sued on such a base, employers need to sufficiently track their decision making criteria and which influences internet based information have on their selections. (Cook 2012, p. 9) However, this is again a wide field of research which takes into consideration the unconsciousness amoung recruiters about how online extracted data impact made decisions eventually.

2.2 Social Networking Sites in Evaluation Processes: Focus on the Professional Network LinkedIn

2.2.1 Definition

With the uprising of SNS, the anonymity of the Internet has been erased. Users are publicily displaying numerous information which allows to receive in-depth insights into a person’s details. (Utz 2010, p. 314) A definition of SNS can be given as follows: it is a particular kind of online platform offering a non-restricted number of public users to create a personalized profile with the overarching goal to connect and reach out to other registered users. The latter distinguishes SNS from conventional online communities. (Utz 2010, p. 315) An important element of SNS is communication which can take place via direct messaging, leaving comments or sharing content. (Boyd and Ellison pp. 211) One has to acknowledge that there exists a large variety of wording for online platforms with regards to social networking. Delimitations between them are not entirely clear for laymen. Examples include online network, social network, social media, online social networks or, as used within the paper on hand, social networking sites. The terms used in the following will be reduced to SNS and social media (SM) webpages.

SNS typically start off with a countable number of first users who invite others to join, whom in turn add their personal network in, and thereupon each new member triggers the snowball effect. The latter ensures that within a rather short time frame the network grows tremendously. (Trusov 2009, p. 90) After being invited, the first and most important step is to create a personalized account which usually holds a photo (fictive or non-fictive) and information about one’s history in education and employment, preferences, interests and others. Subsequently, major actions are to interconnect within the network, join groups and start or participate in on-going forum discussions. Uploading and sharing content is yet another frequently available function beneath sending direct messages or voice mails. (Brown and Vaughn 2011, p. 220)

A well-known example for SNS is LinkedIn as a professional-oriented network, where establishing connections by sending requests and maintaining connections through various activities is key. Their overall goal is to bring together job seekers and employers.

(Cook 2012, p. 5) Instagram or Flickr can be deemed SM channels as the sharing of content such as media to gain followers is superordinate to e.g. direct messaging. Facebook is growing into being a mixture of both and blurs the line between private and professional usage increasingly. (Technopedia 2016) Nevertheless, according to Adams, Facebook users rather share personal details with their friends on this platform and prefer to keep their professional life separately, e.g. on LinkedIn. (Adams 2013) The perceived level of privacy is thus also larger on SM platforms like Facebook than on professional networking sites. (Vicknair et al. 2010, p. 10). Therefrom results that the discrepancy between displayed information and those needed by recruiters can be large. The latter comes along with the risk of extracting not only job-related information which facilely leads to receiving information which should not influence selection decisions such as religion or political stance. (Roth et al. 2013, pp. 3 and p. 10) Within certain countries, even reading the name on SNS may lead so biased decision making as traditional applications would have been submitted without stating the whole name. Here a discrepancy between the SNS regulations (providing one’s full official name) and the precondition for unbiased decision making is visible (Brown and Vaughn 2011, p. 223). Extracting information online which can not be asked legally within an interview is a significant side effect of using SNS within selection processes. (Cook 2012, p. 8). As privacy levels differ between suppliers and allow e.g. to only let selected user or user groups see content on one’s profile, user in general have a choice of what to present to whom (Trusov et. al 2009, p. 92). Here, the decision if only friends are able to see content or everyone in the network, including potential employers, has access to the profile. (Clark and Sherry 2010, p. 507) However, it is inevitable to take into account that recruiters may expand their research beyond the dimensions of SNS or SM by using Google search or other methods. (Töpper 2014)

2.2.2 Capabilities and Objectives of Social Networking Sites for the HR Department

Keeping in mind the above mentioned definition, the author will highlight the implications of SNS for selection purposes.

As pointed out by adviser for personnel and hiring decisions, the Internet offers various new possibilities for screening potential candidates in more depth by providing a virtual place for employers and job seekers to interact with one another (Lebo 2011, p. 38; Scholz 2011, p. 219). Transferring this cognition to SNS, they depict one of the major enablers to access global talent. Consequently, the potential pool of candidates quadruples. (Fallon Taylor 2016)

First and foremost, SNS are used for external selection purposes. These sites hold meaning for both, the active and passive sourcing. For the first mentioned, the usage tremendously simplifies the process of sourcing and in particular addressing candidates by sending contact requests or direct messaging. For the passive part, SNS e.g. allow to further check on initiative and general applications within little time. (Werner 2013, p. 2; Schlesinger 2014, p. 2) Screening SNS as well as SM of potential candidates allows taking into consideration additional aspects of a person’s personality, or rather depicted personality, and thus further narrow down the field of candidates possibly fitting the job description. (Davison et al. 2011b, p. 1; Roth et al. 2013, p. 11) Therefore the positive trend of increasingly posting more content and pictures online evolves beneficial for recruiters (Lebo 2011, p. 100). By receiving insights into their personal interests, connections and participations, the match with regards to company culture may be ascertainable to a certain degree without meeting the candidate in person. Results are increased efficiency in the selection process through higher transparency, which leads to a smaller number of faulty hires. (Schlesinger 2014, p. 2)

Another matter of fact that literature agrees on are cost reductions. By making well-organized use of screening applicants online, costs can be lowered significantly as e.g. expenses generated by inviting unsuitable candidates are omitted. (Ensher et al. 2002, p. 224 and p. 228; Roth et al. 2013, p. 2) On the site of the aspirant, SNS simplify the application process. Efforts of compiling, packing and sending respective documents are reduced with regards to time and costs. On the recruiter’s site they allow processing a larger quantity of possible candidates within a shorter time frame. Consequently, another key benefit of using professional SNS within screening and selection processes is the noticeable lower turnaround time. With regards to accessing and sharing potential candidate’s profiles with other decision-makers, SNS also increase flexibility. (Ensher et al. 2002, pp. 227)

Networking sites are expected to gain more importance due to their specific characteristic of instant communication options. It leads to a higher contact frequency which may eventually replace e-mail contact. (Getha-Taylor 2010, p. 170) In addition, they allow intensifying target group-oriented communication, e.g. addressing graduates in particular. Here another benefit ties in, as the latter focus group may not even be reachable via traditional means, e.g. print media.) Hence, realizing that the usage of SNS for selection purposes is an indispensable requisite to participate in the omnipresent ‘war for talent’ which is carried out between companies nowadays. (Werner 2013, p. 8) The latter is substantiated by the fact that 95% of recruiters anticipate the job market to get even more competitive (Jobvite 2015, p. 2)

In general, keeping in mind that effective HR management includes incorporating new technologies and Internet opportunities significantly contributes to it as being a competitive advantage not only for the HR department but for a company as such. (Ensher et al. 2002, p. 224)

Moving within the large and innovative field of Social Networking one cannot neglect the reverse side of all the opportunities. Referring to the extended quantity of candidates, one of the major subjects under discussion is the quality of the same. The easiness of sending an application online due to above mentioned reduced obstacles leads to an excess of unqualified candidates trying to get into consideration despite not accurately matching the job description. (Davison et al. 2011a, p. 155; Cook 2012, p. 5). However, earlier research abnegated the phenomenon. In the ‘Tales from the Hiring Lane’ […] from 2002 it is claimed, that the quality of applicants did not suffer but is on the same level or even higher (Ensher et al. 2002, p. 227).

In-line with the latter issue is the general tying up of resources through SNS. Particularly when it comes to instant messaging options the risk to spend a disproportionate amount of time is severe. Although triggering fast and smooth communication, the mostly already limited resources within recruiting departments are prone to tighten further due to the required immediate attention of instant messages. (Getha-Taylor 2010, p. 170) In general, the vast amount of data readily available to the recruiter increases difficulties to assess applicants fairly but still quickly. (Roth et al. 2013, p. 12)

Data presented on SNS are numerous and far-reaching, however the validity of them is not universally given. As only a very low number of websites require identification via an official document, faking of personalities online is rather easy and thus a serious issue with a large number of estimated unreported cases. (Davison et al. 2011b, p. 12; Utz 2010, p. 316) In general the credibility of information provided online is challenging to check on. The latter is enhanced by the fact that commonly incomplete information are displayed which the readership try to explain for themselves. This attempt often leads to suspiciousness and increased ambiguity. (Roth et al. 2013, pp. 5)

Another largely discussed but still widely-undefined topic in this context is the issue of privacy. Especially some high-profile candidates might feel an invasion into their privacy if a company uses screening of private profiles on the internet as an evaluation technique. (Brown and Vaughn 2011, p. 220; Davison et al. 2011b, p. 7). This target group may not even be found online or not provide any essential information accessible at all by adjusting privacy settings accordingly. (Ensher et al. 2002, p. 228)

Thence, the appropriate use of SNS for employers is still subject to discussion, as there has not been proven how provided information influence the selection process in detail. They also pose challenges with regards to equal treatment claims on site of the potential candidates, as not everyone has access to the Internet and e.g. the elder generation may not be active on respective website and thus feel disadvantaged with regards to equal job seeking opportunities. (Getha-Taylor 2010, p. 170; Lebo 2011, p. 57) The additional use of SM sites carries further questions. Scholz states that about a third of HR responsible use SM for completing potential candidate’s profiles. (2011 pp. 222) At the same time, at least 35% of recruiters announced that they have found reasons to eliminate applicants from the potential candidate pool due to information published on SM sites. Here the legal framework is also not yet explicitly formulated. (Davison et al. 2011b, p. 4)


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The Impact of Online Recommendations on the Evaluation Process. Identification of Changes in the Recruiter’s Perception of Applicants
Kozminski University
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Recruiting, HR, Recommendations, Interviews, Selection, LinkedIn, Human Resources Practices, Social Networking Sites, Social Media
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Lisa-Marie Langfeld (Author), 2016, The Impact of Online Recommendations on the Evaluation Process. Identification of Changes in the Recruiter’s Perception of Applicants, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free