6 Dos and Don’ts for Avoiding Social Media Minefields When Recruiting

Social media puzzle cubeDo you immediately look on social media for more information on someone you just met? If you answered yes, then you’re not alone. This is a common practice for a lot of people, and many employers are jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder survey reported that 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring.

While social media has the potential to be a valuable recruiting tool, it is crucial for employers to keep these dos and don’ts in mind when using social media to recruit candidates.

Do Develop a Strategy

An employer should create an overall strategy for using social media as part of its recruitment process. This may involve an employer:

  • Assessing its current recruitment strategy;
  • Figuring out social media recruitment goals;
  • Developing a social media policy;
  • Promoting collaboration among various departments within the organization;
  • Determining recruitment strategies for different job groups; and
  • Deciding on the platform(s) to use for recruiting.

Additionally, to make sure an employer reaches all potential applicants, it should not rely exclusively on social media recruitment. Thus, employers should also provide hard copy access to the application process.

Don’t Forget Discrimination Risks

An employer’s social media search may disclose information about an applicant that an employer would normally never request on a job application or during the interview process. For example, social media may show information related to an applicant’s sex, ethnicity, race, age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation and genetic information. If an employer denies employment to an applicant based in part on any protected characteristic discovered on social media, it may face a discrimination claim.

To help avoid the appearance of discrimination based on an applicant’s social media information, an employer needs to document the true reasons for its decision not to hire the applicant. This way the employer will have a formal record to show that its hiring decision was based on nondiscriminatory, valid reasons.

Don’t Attempt to Access Nonpublic Information

An employer should never try to access nonpublic information on an applicant’s social media account. Most social media platforms allow users to keep some or all information about themselves “private.” An employer may be able to easily access a flood of information from applicants who have made their social media information “public,” but it should always avoid trying to see information that an applicant only allows certain users to see. This includes trying to access information by contacting others who might have full access to an applicant’s personal page.

There has been a growing movement on the federal and state level to protect the social media privacy of applicants and employees. In fact, many states have passed laws prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring that applicants provide user names, passwords and other ways of accessing personal information on social media websites as a condition of employment.

Do Be Careful in Using Online Information

Employers should always be cautious in using information they find on social media. Even if information accurately reflects a job applicant, an employer could be looking at discrimination claims if it makes an employment decision based on information it may not legally use in the hiring process.

It’s also important to consider that social media users may display information about themselves that is inaccurate or outdated. An employer should avoid acting on such information without giving an applicant the opportunity to explain the information or prove it was false or unrelated to him or her.

Don’t Inconsistently Use Social Media

If an employer decides to use social media reviews as part of its recruiting process, it must make sure the process is consistent for all applicants. This means the review should be done at the same time in the recruitment process, and employers should consider performing a social media review after the applicant has been interviewed in person.

An employer also needs to structure any social media searches so that the final hiring decision-maker is segregated from the person performing the search. This may help protect the employer from discrimination claims.

Do Follow Other Applicable Laws

Employers should also remember to make sure they are in compliance with all employment laws when using social media as a recruitment tool, even ones that might not seem applicable. For example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) generally allows employers to access consumer reports that provide background information about job applicants, but the applicants must consent in writing. If a third party is providing background reports to an employer, and the third party uses information from social media, the same FCRA rules apply.

How does your organization use social media to recruit quality candidates? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.


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