Walking the Line: Using Social Media to Screen Job Applicants

Walking the Line: Using Social Media to Screen Job Applicants

Social media has taken off in popularity, in fact, these networks are the locations that your employees and potential employees are most likely spending the majority of their online time. Because of the ability to post photos, status updates, friend connections and activities in general, it’s also an easy way to find out detailed information about almost anyone.

Recently, many employers have used this to their advantage while screening potential employees. Barring any stringent privacy settings, they can easily learn about a job candidate’s personality, connections and interests. But, is it legal?

Many people see the issue as a gray area. If information is publically posted and easily accessed, some consider it to be fair game. However, a more detailed approach should be taken when dealing with potential job candidates for a simple reason: discrimination.

Examples of discrimination during the hiring process include the following:

  • Stating or suggesting preferred candidates in a job advertisement,
  • Excluding potential employees during recruitment,
  • Denying certain employees compensation or benefits, and more.

Based on this definition, it is best to use the information garnered during the interview process, information that pertains specifically to an individual’s ability to perform the job they have applied for – therefore avoiding social media screening altogether – when performing a candidate search.

However, if social media screening is an important function of your process and you feel it is a necessity, below are a few actions to consider, minimizing the likelihood of a discrimination claim:

  • Create an official, written policy – and disclose to potential candidates – what information will be searched and which networks will be utilized.
  • Assign a specific employee not related to the hiring process to review the aforementioned information, and only that information. Describe the information that should be forwarded to those involved in the search. This information should only include information that is legally applicable to the hiring process.
  • Keep records of information that was obtained through social media.
  • Ask a legal expert if your process is lawful and review specific laws before starting the process.
  • Never use questionable methods to obtain information, i.e. creating a false account, or impersonating any other person.

Using social media can be a valuable aspect of your company’s hiring process, however, it is best to proceed with extreme caution, or use another method of screening altogether. Have a question about your business’s hiring practices? Contact Attorney Michael Hynum at Hynum Law today.