The big questions these days for employers is, “Should we use social media to screen job applicants?” The fact is, social media and other networking sites can tell you a lot about the patterns and behaviors of a potential employee. BUT, using the internet to screen your applicants can put you at risk in seeing protected class information that you will never be able to un-see. This can be problematic. We have found that many employers are taking the risk and for those companies we offer some tips on how to mitigate that risk.
Tip One: NEVER ask applicants for their passwords. It is illegal to do this in six states and 21 other states are discussing similar legislation to make this illegal. Also, if it is known that your company is asking for this information, it may make it harder for you to conduct successful hires.
Tip Two: Please consider FCRA implications. Employers who use social media sites must follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act procedures by obtaining prior written consent from each job applicant to conduct these searches. They must also supply them with advance adverse action notices.
Tip Three: Designate someone, other than the person in charge of hiring, to do the social media searches. More importantly, consider a well-trained researcher that is used to reporting information found on the internet and someone familiar with social media sites. This person doesn’t need to be a lawyer, but needs to understand the basics of Title VII along with other legal issues that may arise when searching social media.
Tip Four: Never use social media inconsistently as this could lead to legal problems. Just like a regular background check, you must be consistant in your searches.
Tip Five: Please be aware that you can always gather too much information. You will more than likely find more information than you bargain for. On facebook, just looking at someone’s homepage could open you up to Title VII discrimination claims. You cannot un-see something you see. You can’t “put the toothpaste back in the tube.” So make sure the person delegated to do the hiring knows this.
Tip Six: Create a policy for social media screening. You may incorporate a policy statement into your regular background screening service agreement so that your applicants know beforehand you will be using social media as a part of their background check.
Tip Seven: And finally, don’t believe everything you read online. Especially everything you SEE online. With programs like Photoshop, it is extremely easy these days for people to manipulate photos, videos and audio content on the web.
Social media screening is on the rise, but it is certainly taking the slow road. We believe it is great tool to utilize with your regular background check, but you must take precautions and know the risks associated with social media screening. Consider using a third party like NATSB that can redact any protected class information to keep you safe from legal action against your company.
With ten years experience in the field of advertising, web design and video production, he quickly became the Director of Marketing for National Screening Bureau (NATSB). Since then, he has engulfed himself into the world of Drug-Free Workplace Programs by becoming a Certified Professional Collector, a Breath Alcohol Technician, a Certified Designated Employer Representative Trainer and he has created online drug-free workplace training courses for employers. Troy is a member of the Wichita, Central Kansas and Salina Chapters of SHRM.