SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The rise of social media has given credit unions a new way to hire employees at all levels, using sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to publicize job openings as well as screen potential candidates.

But industry insiders and analysts are split on the best methods for using these new resources.

More than three-quarters of U.S. employers now use social media for recruiting job candidates, more than double the figure six years ago, according to a recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management.

BluCurrent CU in Springfield Mo., posts all its available positions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ and then links all of those postings back to its website.

"Facebook gets the highest click-through rate by far," noted Jacqueline Post, marketing manager at the $146 million-asset credit union. "We have a staff referral program, so we'll many times e-mail our staff and encourage them to share [job postings], and in that we get a greater audience and a greater reach."

Bringing the recruiting process to social media has led to a "significant increase" in the number of click-throughs, said BluCurrent's HR director Lacey Stromboly, including more than tripling the number of click-throughs on Facebook for jobs posted last year. The candidate pool has also diversified somewhat, though both Stromboly and Post pointed out that the position they most frequently recruit for is a part-time teller, which has historically mostly been a job for college students.

"But occasionally we'll get three or four people who are totally off the normal path," Stromboly said.

BluCurrent is only beginning to expand to LinkedIn, but that site is the preferred venue for many credit unions using social media as a hiring resource, including the nation's largest CU.

John Duffy, manager of recruiting and HR relations at Navy FCU in Vienna, Va., told Credit Union Journal that LinkedIn is Navy Federal's "primary social media platform for recruiting," posting positions on its LinkedIn Careers page, along with other information about the organization.

"With LinkedIn — because it is a professional networking site and also a social media platform — we're able... to put content on our company page [and] constantly update that content with relevant information about who we are as an employer. We can expose potential new hires or anyone interested in Navy Federal to our culture, and we can help build an employer brand and not just a brand for our members."

Of the more than 2,500 employees Navy Federal has hired in the past 12 months, said Duffy, "about a third of them at least explored Navy Federal as a potential employer on LinkedIn prior to engaging with us."

To Screen Or Not To Screen
One element where credit unions are split is on whether or not to screen potential candidates' social media profiles for objectionable content and behavior before making hiring decisions.

"We do know there are a lot of businesses that opt to do that, and I think it's a perfectly legitimate way to check on people, but we have chosen not to," said BluCurrent's Stromboly. "We also don't use Facebook or Twitter to check up on our current staff. We ask for professional demeanor while they're in the workplace and that they do their jobs in the manner we ask them to, but what they do on their own time, as long as it's not affecting their job at BluCurrent, I really don't care."

Similarly, Navy Federal does not screen its candidates' social media pages beyond LinkedIn.

"We choose to use LinkedIn as a professional networking site, and we separate their professional profile from their personal social media usage," said Duffy.

At Associated CU in Norcross, Ga., however, AVP of HR Karen Pennington said that the $1.3 billion credit union does screen some candidates' social media profiles if they are being considered for a position. That doesn't happen until the candidate has passed both the CU's credit check and criminal background check — both of which are more important that whatever might show up on social media, said Pennington — but the credit union has passed on candidates based on what showed up on social media profiles.

In recent years, however, some social media users have become savvier about using privacy settings to prevent would-be employers from seeing their activity on Facebook, Twitter and the like, including status updates, personal information, pictures and more.

"If I can't see anything then I do what I've always done and go on my gut," said Pennington. "If their criminal history is good, their credit is sufficient to what we look for, their interview, their personality — if I can't get to Facebook then I just have to take my chances. Most of the time we're right on that."

According to NPR, about a dozen states have banned employers from asking candidates for their social media passwords — which would allow them to bypass privacy settings and see candidates' unvarnished social media profiles — and Congress is considering putting a national policy in place.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 20% of surveyed organizations said they use social media to screen candidates.

At CUES, CEO Chuck Fagan endorsed that strategy, pointing out that this sort of screening could put credit unions in a questionable legal position.

"There's a list of 'don'ts' during an interview, and asking age, asking all of those personal-type questions are really not allowed," said Fagan. "However in social media you're going to see a picture of that person, you're going to see their age, because most people put some sort of resume up there. So with those attributes available through social media, there could be downsides to screening that way just form a legality standpoint."

Fagan said CUES continues to advise credit unions to not conduct social media screening.

"You want to be able to judge a candidate's viability for a position based on the skills they bring, the cultural fit of where they might match up with your organization," he said. "It's those things that you want to make the decision on, not those demographic-type indicators that might show up on social media."

Casting Wide Net
Many credit unions interviewed for this story said that they believe social media can be used to recruit employees for positions at nearly any level. Fagan pointed out, however, that entry-level positions may see higher response rates via social media because more seasoned candidates (or just those less active on social media) may be less likely to see those postings than younger, more social media-savvy consumers looking for entry-level jobs.

Navy Federal's Duffy said his CU uses LinkedIn to recruit for positions ranging from entry-level MSRs to VP-level job openings. But Navy, BluCurrent, Associated and many others that spoke to Credit Union Journal emphasized that social media — in whatever form they use it — is still only one component of the recruitment and hiring process. Professional development web sites, trade associations, job boards, community resources and more are all part of the equation, they said.

"There's still a use for the Monster.coms of the world," said CUES' Fagan, "I just think you can't look at it that there's a single bullet anymore. You can't just post an ad in [a trade magazine] and call it a day. You've got to go to Monster, you've got to go to social media. … You've got to do it from as many channels as possible."

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