Social Media Screening for Hiring: What Employers Need to Know

According to Backlinko, there are currently nearly 4 billion users on social media worldwide, with the average person owning 8.6 accounts on different social media platforms. The number is staggering—there’s hardly any doubt about it. But did you know, this number of online socialising is now pivotal in hiring and recruitment? Employers use social media screening as a tool to research, analyse, and hire potential candidates for different roles.

A 2018 CareerBuilder survey revealed that nearly 70% of employers turned to social networking sites to find potential candidates. More than 50% of them were paying attention to content found on candidates’ social media accounts to decide whether to offer them a job position or not. Content that led to candidates’ rejections included indications of excessive drinking or drug use, inappropriate photos/videos, inflammatory commentary regarding race, gender, religion, criminal activity, and more.

The survey also showed that 48% of employers also checked their employees’ social media timelines, and based on disparaging content found online, they either reprimanded or fired their employees. This indicates that employers are increasingly using social media monitoring to evaluate candidates, and it does not stop once the hiring process is completed. It turns out that employees and job applicants need to be careful about what they post on their timelines if they want to land a great job and excel in their careers. 

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Why employers are turning to a social media screening 

Social media screening provides employers with insights into a potential candidate’s behaviour, which would be impossible to get through resumes and interviews. Candidates can lie about themselves in resumes and exhibit false behaviours during interviews. But what they share on social media gives a reliable clue of how they are as a person and whether their thoughts and behaviours align with the company’s values. Besides, social media screening can help employers protect their organisation’s reputation by minimising the risk of hiring candidates with a tendency to post potentially damaging content that could negatively impact their company’s image.

Adhering to the laws

While evaluating candidates using their online presence is a good tactic for employers, employers need to follow and stay up-to-date with the privacy laws revolving around social media. As these laws evolve, fully understanding and adhering to them can save employers from many legal hassles.

Employers also need to be wary of evaluating candidates based on social media searches. Much of what they find on candidates’ profiles can make them commit unlawful discrimination in the hiring process.

Some laws prohibit employers from discriminating against candidates because of their race, colour, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information in many countries. Since most of these details are available on most people’s social profiles, it is easier to discriminate when evaluating applicants or employees, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Under no circumstances should demographic indicators influence an employer’s hiring decision. While using social media as an effective tool to filter candidates for your company, one should pay special attention to how you are using it not to create biassed judgement against an applicant or employee and end up in a legal bind.

Reference: Navigating Social Media Screening and Data Privacy Laws in the Workforce | Bon Idziak | 14 April 2022

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