Should Employers Use Social Media To Screen Job Candidates?

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Social media is everywhere. Billions of people use social media on a daily basis to create, share, and exchange ideas, messages, and information. Both individuals and businesses post regularly to engage and interact with people from around the world. It’s a powerful communication medium that provides immediate, frequent, permanent, and wide reaching information.

People post their lives on social media for the world to see. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and countless other social channels provide a quick and simple way to glimpse into a job candidate’s personal life - both the positive and negative sides of it. Social media screening is tempting to use as part of the hiring process, but is it a good idea?

Using social media to screen job candidates is not an uncommon practice. But please be aware of the consequences of your actions and the potential legal risks involved too. When done improperly, social media screening can be considered unethical or even illegal. Protect yourself.

Social media screening is essentially tapping into a job candidate’s private life. It can reveal information about protected characteristics like age, race, nationality, disabilities, gender, religion, etc. and that could bias your hiring decision. Pictures or comments on a private page that are taken out of context could ruin a perfectly good candidate’s chances of getting hired. This process could potentially give an unfair advantage to one candidate over another. It creates an unequal playing field and potentially provides hiring managers with information that can impact their hiring decision in a negative way.

It’s hard to ignore social media as a screening tool. While there are things that you shouldn’t see, there are some things that you can lawfully consider – making it a valuable source of relevant information too. Use social media screening properly to ensure that you don’t hire a toxic employee who will cost you money or tarnish your company’s reputation. Consider the lawful side of this process and you may be able to hire the best employee ever. There is a delicate balance.

Screening job candidates on social media must be done professionally and responsibly. SHRM.org has an excellent post that highlights 7 Ways to Maximize Benefit and Minimize Risk of social media screening:

  1. Never ask for passwords.
  2. Have HR do it.
  3. Look later in the process.
  4. Be consistent.
  5. Document decisions.
  6. Consider the source.
  7. Be aware that other laws may apply.

For more information on each of these points, visit SHRM.org and read the article titled, LEGAL TRENDS Social Media Use in Hiring: Assessing the Risks. It’s a must read for every recruiter, hiring manager, and HR professional.

Social media isn’t going anywhere. But before you use social media to screen job candidates, consult with your management and legal teams to ensure that you comply with any and all laws.

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Download our free e-Book “Recruiting with Social Media” here!

By: Derek Lennon, WorkBright

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