Are You Tempted to Scan Candidate Social Media Profiles? Keep These Dos and Don’ts in Mind

Today, business owners and recruiters can access more information about candidates in their talent pool than ever before—much of it shared willingly by the candidates themselves via social media. Seventy-nine percent of the population has a social media account, according to a recent Statista poll. In comparison, 84% of companies hold social media accounts of their own. Another 70% of recruiters admit to using them to view candidate profiles in the hopes of learning more before proceeding with the hiring process.

Viewing a candidate’s social media profiles can give you details beyond what they’ve put in a resume, cover letter, or list of references. It can even warn you about problematic behaviors before you make a hiring decision—but it’s important to leverage this access wisely. To be sure you’re utilizing social media effectively—and legally—we’ve compiled some dos and don’ts of incorporating social media into your hiring process:

DON’T screen for protected groups. While viewing a candidate’s social media profile can give you access to information you wouldn’t see on a resume or application—such as membership in protected groups like race, religion, sexual orientation, disability status, and more—you cannot legally screen potential employees for these groups. For this reason, wait until after an interview has taken place to utilize social media.

DO treat each candidate equally. If you choose to scan one candidate’s LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, do the same for the remaining candidates. Ideally, develop a process—check to ensure the candidates’ resume claims line up with their public profiles and scan for any alarming content—and stick with it for each candidate.

DON’T ask for passwords or send friend requests. Asking for passwords violates the law in many states. View only what’s publicly available and relevant to the candidate’s professional life, and remember that not all information provided online is factual.

DO utilize your HR professionals. If you’re a business owner, it can be difficult to remain unbiased—say, when you learn a favorite candidate follows your alma mater’s football team or does not hold to your political views. Utilize your HR department or an outsourced firm to conduct screenings for you to avoid any chances of bias and ensure your company is considering only what’s legal.

DON’T forget to document your findings. If you find something alarming on a candidate’s social media that leads to a hiring decision, print the item in question, date it, and note the (legal) aspects that went into the decision. If the post is later removed and the candidate attempts to claim you were discriminatory against their protected status—when a public post about ongoing participation in illegal acts was the true culprit—you have documentation.

While social media can provide you with valuable insights you can’t glean from a resume or interview, you must use it carefully to avoid bias and potential legal complications. In addition, social media screenings should not be your only method of screening potential employees before hiring. For a full picture of the hiring tools available to you on the HireScore Assessment Platform, reach out to Stang Decision Systems today.