When it comes to using social media for hiring, it’s important you know your risks.
Social media has become a major part of modern life. It is now the norm for people to have multiple social media profiles. Continuously checking and updating different social media profiles—whether it be LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.—is part of many people’s daily ritual. With a plethora of information available to employers about potential employees, it would be unwise for HR to overlook social media as a way to do research on job candidates. However, incorporating social media into your hiring process can be risky and should only be one of many different strategies.
The Risks of Using Social Media in Hiring Practices
It is common to use social media in applicant research, but the problem with social media is that you can’t “unsee” sensitive information. The nature of social media calls for people to share life events with their social networks, and you, as an employer, do not want this to influence your hiring decision. For instance, you may find out that a potential candidate just announced a pregnancy, celebrated a 50th birthday or has been in and out of the hospital for an incurable disease. As an employer, these things can be used against you in a discrimination case if you fail to hire that person.
Additionally, not every job candidate uses social media. This can be for a number of reasons, but it may be related to his or her economic status. Social media is accessed via the web on smart phones, tablets and computers. These devices, data packages and internet all cost money—not everyone can afford to participate in the social media culture. And this may correlate with certain racial and ethnic groups. Using social media as the only way to recruit and hire potential candidates could inadvertently keep you from hiring a diverse workforce.
Best Practices to Minimize the Risk of Using Social Media:
- Designate a specific person not involved in the decision making to do the searching. Social media searches are best performed by a designated person in HR who is not involved in making the final hiring decision. An HR professional will have a greater understanding of what activities or characteristics are protected by law and what things can be relayed to the decision-makers.
- Do not ask for a candidate’s password. It is illegal in most states to ask a candidate for their social media password. For this reason, employers should only consider a candidate’s public profile.
- Be consistent. When conducting social media background checks, it’s important that you be consistent and have a process in place. If you look at one candidate’s social media accounts, be sure that you look at all candidates’ social media accounts. Be consistent in which sites you use to check out candidates. Don’t look at one person’s Instagram and another person’s Twitter. Additionally, always check a candidate’s social media profiles at the same point in the hiring process. Best practice is to check after the candidate has been interviewed.
- Take the source into account. Try and focus on candidates’ own posts—not what other people have posted about them or on their pages. You’ll also want to give a candidate a chance to explain questionable posts. It is not uncommon for profiles to be hacked.
While social media engagement is a fairly new concept for employers and employees alike—it is likely here to stay. Use caution when utilizing social media for your HR practices, and be sure to incorporate other methods into your hiring strategy to minimize the risks.