How to Use Social Media as an Employee Screening Tool

Social media is a staple in life.

Social media is a staple in life. It is the way in which many people obtain news, communicate with one another, and even conduct political conversations. Therefore, it makes sense that employers want to utilize social media when conducting employee screening investigations on potential employees. While using social media can be helpful, it is important to be mindful of the ways in which social media can, and should, be used in this delicate process.

Farm; Don’t Hunt with Social Media

Social media is a wonderful screening tool that can be used to farm information to create a full picture. The idea is to browse everything available to the public and get to know your candidate through this public persona. As opposed to running criminal background checks and credit reports, which allows you to hunt for specific information, social media is an open-ended search process. Anything can be found through the social media profiles and activities, whether the information is more of a personal nature or even a professional nature.

Therefore, do not be closed-minded when perusing a candidate’s public profiles and activities online. Reviewing information such as profiles, as well as postings, Reddit activity, Twitter follows, and even Instagram and Snapchat activity can create an in-depth picture of whom you are potentially hiring.

Stay Within Legal Guidelines

Since social media is an open book for those who offer public glimpses into their lives and activities, it is easy to get swept away in the idea that anything goes. However, this is still an employment situation with federal and state guidelines in place to protect the rights of employment candidates.

For instance, in New Jersey it is illegal to mandate an employment candidate provide you credentials to access their social media accounts. Employees have the right to privacy. Unless they have purposefully, and willfully added you as a friend or follower, you can only have the same access any member of the general public has to the candidate’s social media.

In addition, hiring decisions cannot be based on discriminatory facts, such as age, race, creed, sexual orientation, or other similar factors. Social media gives you an insight to all of these types of issues surrounding a potential candidate. Therefore, tread lightly and do your best to only focus on the activities at hand, as opposed to facts that you know to be discriminatory.

Finally, it is best to have a clear policy in place for your hiring staff and management regarding the use of social media for employee screening purposes. This is something to design with your HR team and legal team to ensure you are following the guidelines set forth by any and all laws affecting the hiring process.

Social Media’s Standard Practices

Beyond the legal issues (click the link to view a national summary), there are several standard practices that may be a good idea to follow when researching potential or even current employees on social media. While the following concepts may not be illegal they may put you into a generally difficult position, at best, or be unethical, at worst.

1. Do not “friend” employees or candidates on social media. This creates a level of personal connection that may be detrimental, especially if any adverse action is to be taken with that employee in the future.

2. Speak to the potential employee or candidate about the findings before making any decision. Sometimes social media is not truly an accurate portrayal of an individual. Maybe a photo was posted without the person’s permission. Maybe that photo was photoshopped and is not a truthful photo. Maybe the person was hacked and information on their social media account is inaccurate as a result.

3. Be cautious when making decisions based on findings on social media to make sure there is no breach of any legal duties.

It is not a bad idea to utilize all available resources to get to know the potential employee, however, when utilizing social media, make sure you are appropriately cautious in your approach. If you are in need of a company who specializes in employee screening and using all available resources while abiding by state and local laws, contact us at 856.429.0325. Our investigative experts will be happy to help you make sound hiring decisions without compromising ethics or legal requirements.