Facebook—friend or foe?
Using Social Media to Screen Applicants
With social media becoming more popular for recruiting, we are often asked whether it is acceptable for employers to look up potential new employees on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
According to a recent survey conducted by the job search website Career Builder, approximately 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before appointing them, up from 60% last year.
According to the survey, while 60% of employers who use social media screening are looking for information that supports the candidate’s qualifications for the job, 50% are looking to determine whether the candidate has a professional online persona, and 24% are looking for a reason not to hire a candidate.
Although the statistics imply that a majority of employers are using pre-hire social media searches for reasons that appear to make sense, such searches can present significant risks from a legal standpoint.
A social media search may reveal information about a candidate’s protected characteristics that employers are not permitted to consider in making recruitment decisions. Characteristics of which the employer would have no knowledge without a social media search.
Candidates could argue that information learned from their social media profiles prevented their hiring, placing the employer in the difficult position of proving the hiring decision was based on a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason.
What is acceptable?
Employers should limit social media screening during the pre-employment process to only information determining a person’s essential qualifications. LinkedIn and professional websites should be fine for such queries but other searches such as Facebook and general Google searches should be avoided.
Employers might also consider referencing recruitment as part of their social media policy if such a policy is in place.