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Is Geofencing Ethical for Recruiters?

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Ever been to a mall, theme park, movie theater or the mall and your phone starts blowing up? You’re getting served ads by the same places you are visiting or even driving by. How do they do that?

As many of us know, this technological tease is known as geofencing. Essentially, a business (or global recruiting firm) is using GPS, Wi-Fi, cell data or RFID technology to trigger an action when a device enters a designated virtual boundary.

As with any technology, geofencing can be abused. From a marketer’s vantage point, it is a gift to help increase client visibility. From a prospect’s point of view, it’s welcomed and advanced stalking. Either way, it gets the job done for our clients – reach more people and get them in the pipeline.

You see the ad and start thinking about spending your allowance or paycheck because of it. Geofencing is a ubiquitous practice in the recruitment marketing space. We love doing it. Our clients love seeing it. But is it ethical to execute it?

In an NPR report, Carol McDaniel, director of talent acquisitions for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., admits geofencing is a little “Big Brotherish,” but says people who respond are flattered because the advertisement was directed at them. “We have invaded their space in which they live and work, so it’s a much better use of our dollars,” she says. “We’re not just throwing out a wide net and seeing who comes through the pipeline.”

According to Pew Research and Search Engine Watch, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone but only 22 percent of businesses are using hyperlocal targeting to its fullest potential. Is that because of lack of understanding or apprehension about ethics?

While it may seem like a negative, using the technology in a proper and effective way is extremely positive. The premise of using geofencing is subjective, but to reach more clients in a way they prefer is only objective. If marketers use technology appropriately, it isn’t spam. It’s getting the job done.

When it comes to the candidate, the amount of information provided or disclosed is a choice they make. Opt out or not. Buy in or not. All we can do as recruitment professionals is trust they make the right choice. And getting someone to apply for a better job is completely ethical.


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