While some employers scan applicants’ social media presence as a natural part of their screening process, many states are now enacting laws to protect applicants from discrimination based upon their personal postings. Employers must be vigilant in order to avoid potential legal problems down the road from conducting social media screening.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 77 percent of its members used social media to recruit and select employees in 2013, up substantially from past years. On the face of it, social media seems to be an ideal tool for job applicant screening. However, it’s not quite that simple; while using social media to recruit candidates is generally acceptable, conducting background checks based on social media can lead to some risks and hazards.
Here are four ways to maximize the benefits of social media screening while minimizing the risks:
- Stay Diversified
Believe it or not, there are people who are not very active on social media, and this includes job seekers. Those who are economically disadvantaged may have limited access to technology, and this can extend to certain minority groups. The best bet for employers is to diversify recruiting methods and use social media as just one of an arsenal of tools. This could include a professional criminal background check as part of employment screening with applicant permission.
- Be Consistent
If you are going to look at social media profiles as part of your screening process, attempt to do so for every applicant. Don’t just look at and consider select applicants’ profiles; doing so could leave you vulnerable to a discrimination suit if you decide not to hire based upon what you find.
- Consider Context and Source
When assessing social media as part of the hiring process, focus on the candidate’s own postings, not on responses or hearsay from other users. Be aware that there can be false or impostor accounts on social media, and users are not always who they say they are. Give the candidate the opportunity to respond to and defend themselves against negative findings.
- Document Your Findings, Thought Process and Decisions
Print the social media screening page(s) upon which you’ll be basing a hiring decision and take notes about your specific reasons for rejection. This documentation will help to protect you in the event that the content is deleted during a challenge or suit.
Using social media screening as part of background screening is valuable, but it must be done intelligently. Augment any social media screening with a professional background check for a comprehensive assessment of each candidate.