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Using Social Media to Screen Candidates

Question:

How can social media be used to screen applicants?

Answer:

Using social media for screening can be a double-edged sword; while Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter can offer much insightful information about a potential candidate, what you learn may hurt your company.

Social media sites such as LinkedIn can provide an individual’s accomplishments and accolades such as educational background, recommendations, and awards. In fact, members are encouraged to keep their profiles current to help them in employment situations. Social media can also be helpful in assessing whether or not someone would be a good fit for a company’s culture. However, on the “downside”, reviewing an applicant’s online profile could expose you to demographic data such as race, marital status, gender, national origin, disability, age, or religion – information you cannot use when making a hiring decision. Social media  can also reveal negative attributes such as alcohol or drug use, provocative behavior or dress, and poor communication skills.

With this in mind, use social media with caution. It is recommended that if you access an applicant’s social media profile that you clearly show discriminatory information that is discovered (i.e. age, ethnicity, religion) did not impact your hiring decision. To avoid potential claims, as much as possible, be sure you are consistent in checking all applicant’s online information, not just select groups, such as a certain age or gender. Also determine at what point in your process you will check candidates’ profiles.

Having a designated screening tool or process that only reports job-related findings and not discriminatory information will be your best protection. You may also want to consider seeking counsel from an employment law specialist who is familiar with social media-related laws, particularly recent legislation set by the National Labor Relations Board.

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