Should Employers Use Social Media To Screen Job Candidates?


Should employers use social media in the hiring process

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 its positive and negative sides.

IIt’s tempting to refer to social media accounts as part of screening, but should employers use social media during the hiring process?

Using social media to screen job candidates is not an uncommon practice. On the positive side, employers can use these insights to make more informed hiring decisions. But please be aware of the consequences of your actions and the potential legal risks involved. When done improperly, social media screening can be considered unethical or even illegal.

Pros of using social media in the hiring process

Access to additional candidate information

Social media platforms can reveal areas of a candidate’s personality and interests that are not always evident in a resume or during an interview. Employers may look at social media to glean insights into a candidate’s behavior, communication skills, and potential cultural fit into the business.

Finding candidates with the required skills

Platforms like LinkedIn are tailored for professional networking and job searching, making them ideal for identifying candidates with specific skill sets.

Employers can easily find potential hires with the qualifications and experience for their open roles. LinkedIn displays job history with a breakdown of skills and responsibilities, making it easy to gain a clearer view of a candidate’s experience quickly.

Reaching a wider pool of candidates

Social media platforms break geographical barriers, enabling employers to reach a broader talent pool. It’s particularly useful for identifying passive candidates who might not be actively seeking new opportunities but are open- to the right offer.

Cons of using social media in the hiring process

Potential for bias and discrimination

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. This raises the question, “Is hiring based on social media illegal?” While not inherently illegal, it can lead to legal complications if it results in discriminatory hiring practices.

Violation of privacy

Another ethical concern is the violation of privacy. “Is it ethical to look at employees’ social media?” The line between professional and personal life can become blurred. Many argue that what employees do or say outside of work should not impact their professional opportunities.

Inaccurate or misleading information

Social media profiles may not always reflect a candidate’s true nature or qualifications. Relying too heavily on these platforms can lead to misjudgments and possibly overlooking qualified candidates based on their online persona.

Studies and findings

Studies have shown varied results regarding the effectiveness of social media screening. Some suggest that social media can be a valuable tool for understanding a candidate better, while others warn of the risks of bias and misinformation.

The legal landscape is also evolving, with more discussions on the legality of hiring based on social media profiles. The ethical implications remain a hotly debated topic, with a fine line between sensible screening and invasion of privacy.

Balancing employer access and candidate privacy

In balancing the rights and privacy of candidates with the employer’s need for information, transparency, and consent are key. Candidates should be aware that their social media may be reviewed and navigate the hiring process with this in mind.

Screening job candidates on social media must be done professionally and responsibly. has an excellent post that highlights 7 Ways to Maximize Benefits 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 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 you comply with all laws.

What to keep in mind

As a decision-making tool, some social media platforms can offer valuable insights into a candidate’s suitability for a role.

However, this requires hiring managers to be adept at discerning relevant information from personal content that is unrelated to professional capabilities.

For instance, while a candidate’s public discussions or posts related to their professional field can be insightful, their personal hobbies or political views should generally be considered irrelevant to their job performance.

Identifying relevant red flags is crucial. Red flags might include unprofessional behavior, discriminatory comments, or other content that directly contradicts the values and ethics of your organization.

Hiring managers need to be clear about their objectives when sifting through candidates’ social media. Identifying internal or unconscious bias is important: when looking at a candidate’s profile, there is a fine line between being thorough and disrespecting privacy. Hiring managers need to be able to discern between a candidate’s work-related posts from their personal life online.

Plus, it’s super important to understand all the legal and ethical do’s and don’ts of using someone’s personal info in hiring decisions. It’s all about striking the right balance and keeping things respectful and above board.

Moreover, social media platforms are increasingly being used as active recruitment mediums. Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and even industry-specific online communities are not just sources of information about candidates but also serve as venues for attracting and engaging potential hires.

This approach broadens the talent pool, allowing employers to reach passive candidates who may not be actively looking for new opportunities.

But – and this is a big but – don’t think of ditching the tried-and-true hiring methods just yet. Sure, social media gives you a wider lens to scope out candidates, but it doesn’t dig as deep as a good, old-fashioned one-on-one interview. Think of it more like an appetizer rather than the main course when it comes to vetting candidates.


So, should employers use social media to hire, and is it legal to use social media in the hiring process?

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.

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