Clip_Board_SocialMedia-cropped.jpgSome employers say “yes” and some say “no,” but is there a right answer? Social media screening is certainly something that seems tempting, but there are legal issues that could arise from engaging in the practice too soon. Many young adults who are now applying for jobs, or are in the process of furthering their career, grew up with this predicament when Facebook became available for anyone over the age of 16. Those who joined Facebook in their pre-college careers posted anything they wanted, and didn’t realize the potential impact it would have on job searching or college endeavors. This caused a ruckus when the information the users deemed as ‘personal,’ was seen as public, as it was being posted on a social media site that could be seen by anyone.

Be careful when reviewing a prospective applicant’s profile. If the applicant isn’t hired, they could take legal actions and claim discrimination due to knowledge on social media. Privacy should be respected, but it’s also nice to get to know a little more about your applicant with tools that haven’t been available in the past.

In 2015, Career Builder surveyed over 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals, as well as more than 3,000 full time workers in the United States about their social media hiring practices. They discovered that 60 percent of employers used social media when researching job candidates.

 “49 percent of hiring managers who have screened candidates on social media have found information that caused them to not hire a candidate.”

Amy McDonnell, The Hiring Site Blog, 4/28/16

 Below are a few factors to consider when using social media during the hiring process.

 It can give a good idea about their personality: Facebook tends to be a casual social media outlet, so while it probably won’t give a lot of professional insight, it can shed light on their personality and voice. LinkedIn is a great tool to see professional and schooling matters, and it provides another way to see what capabilities the candidate has to offer your company.

You could stumble upon protected information: Some pieces of information, such as name, age, race, and gender are protected and could create problems with discrimination issues if an applicant discovers it was used in making the hiring decision. Knowing this information before you even interview an applicant could create a bias, even without intending to.

Reliability could be an issue: When was the last time the applicant was on social media? It is likely that you could run across an account that isn’t legitimate, or hasn’t been used in 5 years. If the applicant is young, lots of growth happens in five years, so judging them based on old information could be a negative side effect. As hard as it is to believe, some people still aren’t on social media, or might only be on certain sites. Should these applicants be judged or analyzed differently just because they have chosen to opt out of using social media?

It can make a better case for the employee: One of the great aspects about social media is that it can further your desire to hire an individual. The potential new hire may have made a great first impression on you, and upon further inspection of their digital footprint, you may like them even more. The candidate may be extremely active in the professional field and their continued desire to learn could greatly benefit your growing company.

Jonathan A. Segal from the Society for Human Resource Management gives the follow tips for playing it safe when social media becomes involved.

  1. Make sure human resources does all of the social media checking. They are more likely to know what can or cannot be considered within the hiring process.
  2. Look later in the process. Check social media profiles after an applicant has been interviewed, when their identification in protected groups is most likely already known.
  3. Be consistent. Don’t look at only one applicant’s social media profiles. Check out profiles for everyone, and make sure to check out the top social media sites that are being used.
  4. Document all of your decisions. Print out the content on which you base any hiring decision and record any reason for rejection. This protects you if damaging content has been deleted by the time a decision is challenged.
  5.  Consider the source and focus on the candidate’s own posts or tweets, not on what others have said about them. You may want to give the candidate a chance to respond to findings of worrisome social media content. There could also be a possibility that you aren’t looking at a real account. Some people aren’t active on social media and/or it’s possible their account has been compromised.
  6. Don’t forget that there are laws put in place for this type of screening. If you use a third party to do social media screening, you are probably subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (and similar state laws).

Whether or not you chose to screen your potential employee, make sure you’re careful as to how much you look for on social media. Wait until you’ve met the potential employee and know the boundaries for your actions.


By: Sarah Kessler