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Eight out of every ten Americans have a social media
presence. Facebook is the most common, but the percentage of adults using
Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter is gradually rising. For employers
this means the ability to vet potential employees recent activities online, in
addition to a standard criminal background check. This practice is called social media screening.
Looking into potential employees using social networks is
beneficial during the hiring process, although there is a fine line of legality
in doing so. You must know how to approach investigating a potential employee’s
social networks without violating their rights and privacy.
Firstly, you should only examine publicly shared content.
Never friend or request to follow a candidate. Look at the information they
have shared publicly to avoid violating their privacy.
BE AWARE OF THE LAW
Each state has different laws when it comes to what you can
and can’t do online. Identify your state’s laws in order to understand your
limitations when it comes to vetting job applicants over the Internet.
Federally, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a law you should be aware
of. The CFAA regulates what information you can legally access on the net. For
example, you cannot gain access to private information like passwords without
Equal employment opportunity issues can arise when viewing a
potential candidate’s online profile. Viewing a public picture can give insight
to things like race or political views. These are things candidates may not
want to disclose, and legally can’t be taken into consideration during the
hiring process. In 2010 the University of Kentucky learned this the hard way.
The university found a candidate’s religious views online and took them into
account when turning him down for a job. Kentucky argued that his “religious
views on evolution would compromise his role as a scientist.” Ultimately, the
victim of this unlawful social media screening received a six-figure settlement
from the university
Here are some lawful reasons to reject an employee based on
their social media:
According to the Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM), 43% of organizations surveyed said they use the Internet to screen
potential employees. This practice is here to stay as the social media
landscape is dominated by millennials, a major up and coming workplace
Another important thing to consider when social media
screening is which networks you’re looking at. You should avoid screening
Facebook for one candidate, and Twitter for another. It is best practice to
search the same social media sites for each potential employee. Note, before
using social media to screen a candidate you should have a social media
screening policy in place. This policy should include information about when
the applicant screening should take place in the hiring process, who’s doing
the screening, and how to handle your findings.
Here’s some basic info on how to utilize social media screening for applicants:
Usually Facebook profiles are fairly private. For the most
part you can view a profile picture and some public comments, so don’t go
further than that. Keep your search to what you can publicly see, and
definitely avoid friend requesting the applicant in an effort to dig deeper.
Twitter is a toss up. Profiles can be either public or
private. If a candidate’s Twitter is private you are able to view their profile
picture and possibly some descriptive information. If their profile is public
you are able to see every tweet they’ve ever made, including retweets, and all
the tweets they’ve liked. A public Twitter profile can be very revealing, and
should be a focal point of your social media screening practice.
Like Twitter, Instagram accounts can either be public or
private. Private accounts offer a small view of the profile picture and a
possible short description. Public accounts allow you to see all the pictures a
person has posted and the pictures they’ve been tagged in. Instagram is another
valuable social media screening tool, but remember not to take into account
things like gender, race, religion, political views, disability etc.
If you’re unaware, LikedIn is essentially Facebook for
professionals. It is very uncommon to find inappropriate material on a
candidate’s LinkedIn, but the site is great to screen for professionalism.
Grammatical mistakes, for example, are a fair reason to disqualify a candidate.
In the event that you find something questionable during a candidate’s social media screening, it is often in your company’s best interest to allow
a candidate to explain him or herself. You don’t want to lose a good candidate
because of a potential fake profile or unsolicited comment their friend made.
Give them a chance to illuminate on your findings. If you do decide to turn
down a candidate for something you’ve found on social media, make a record of
it. That way you’ll have evidence in the unfortunate event that the rejected
candidate takes you to court. They can delete what you may have found, so play
it safe and take a screenshot for your personal records.
OUTSOURCE SOCIAL MEDIA SCREENING
Taking the aforementioned precautions and information into
account should allow you to successfully screen potential employees on social
media; however, outsourcing your screen to an organization that specializes in
employment screening is the smartest option if you can afford it. Companies
or ESS will look into a
candidate’s background, including their social media history.
these are equipped to obtain all relevant and lawfully available information on
your candidate. Utilizing an employment-screening firm removes bias from the
equation, and is probably the best option if it is within your means.
In today’s world social media screening is an imperative
part of the hiring process. Whether you do it yourself or outsource it, you
don’t want to find out that someone makes inappropriate posts online after you
hire them. Don’t hire an unprofessional “professional”.