Screening Applicants With Social Media

Type “screening applicants with social media” in your Google box sometime. You might be surprised by the results. I certainly was.

I had expected to find lots of pages with a title like “Five Tips for Using Social Media When Hiring.” I found some of those, of course, but I found a lot – and I mean dozens – of articles and blog posts on legal issues surrounding hiring via social media. And I thought the world of staffing software was legally complicated…

I’ve written previously about the importance of using social networks when recruiting. After all, a social network is like any other network, and staffers have always relied on networks – their own and their friends’ – to find good applicants. I stand by this, and I can’t imagine any lawyer having a problem with it.

But I was surprised to find that whether applicants have an expectation of privacy with regard to the content they post on social media sites is an unsettled area of the law. After all, I thought, social media is inherently public. If you don’t want people to know about something, don’t write about it in a blog, Facebook post, tweet, or whatever. Simple, right?

Not quite. As one lawyer pointed out, employers are generally prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s race, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation or disability status. But most of this information is readily available if someone has a Facebook account. So a potential employer can’t ask about such things, but they can know them, which means…what? They shouldn’t use such information when hiring, but what’s to stop them?

Another lawyer noted that many employers have established clear policies about using internet-related information when making employment decisions – policies which, he points out, were worked out in conjunction with a labor lawyer. Some policies include a general disclosure (“We may review information we find on social network sites”), and some reaffirm that they do not discriminate on the basis of X, Y Z, A, B, and C even if those things are known via social networks.

It’s worth noting that such legal concerns don’t seem to be worrying a lot of companies. According to a CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 employers in 2009, 45 percent reported using social media sites in an attempt to research a candidate with another 11 percent planning to begin utilizing social media account reviews this year. And a surprising 35 percent said that they had relied solely on a candidate’s social media site when deciding to hire him (or her) or not. (Take note, applicants!) I can only imagine that those numbers have gone up in the last two years.

How will you augment your staffing software with social media? Whatever you do, think it through first. I won’t recommend calling a lawyer, but neither will I say that that’s a bad idea. Again, think it through. And be careful.

Stay tuned for the latest developments in this field and, of course, in the field of staffing solutions. Now that I’ve starting writing on this topic, I can tell that I won’t be able to stop. If you come across interesting cases and/or commentaries, please send them to me or leave a comment below.

Views: 77

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 20, 2011 at 4:33pm

What i find amusing is everybody having a rigor about looking up a profile someplace then they turn around and advocate that video resumes are the wave of the future.  Is the difference a picture being sent to you that you look at just ducky as opposed to a picture that is put out there for any and everybody to look at being screamed about as illegal.  Look at what i send you and don't look at what i put out there for billlions to see.  To me the silliest thing going on in the world right now is people slapping stuff on the net then going on the net screaming for privacy.


If you want to pee off the front poarch don't throw a fit if your neighbor sees you and doesn't want to invite you to the block party because you do it.


If you want to know what makes people tick or how their mind works or what's going on with them just get on twitter read through about a month of their tweets and you know a whole lot about them and what is going on.  Where they go, marital status , kids, what kind of pizza they like, where they went on vacation, if they like hockey or basketball, which movies, their politics and their mood du jour.  That should drive the lawyers crazy and up the paranoia level to a dull roar.  What fun is twitter if it is sanitized to the hilt and does everybody remember what they flopped out there in a moment of pique.  :)  Go ahead kids, listen to those social medial job coaches who tell you to put your digital footprint on your resume complete with your twitter account.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 20, 2011 at 9:40pm
And if you want to know why a lot of folks are having a hard time getting job offers just observe one of the job hunt chats and observe what the unemployed are telling the other unemploymed about how to get a job.  If they can ever quit talking about building their "personal brand".  As soon as we can get rid of the absurd notion that people have a "personal brand" that they need to somehow build, i think folks may figure out that they are simply who they are, do what they do, like what they like and will find a place to work where they enjoy being who they are and quit the posturing foolishness.


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