In a place in time where Google seems to know us better than we know ourselves, what is the role of social profiles in recruitment? Is it legal to check someone’s Facebook profile before hiring them?
Here are some thoughts to consider.
On one hand, you see who the candidate is when they let their guard down. The unpolished twitter feed or facebook reel may show a different side of your candidate who is (hopefully) putting their best foot forward when meeting across the table from you. An individual's online profile could give you inside information about them that you may never learn in an interview - from how they speak to others, what they are passionate about, or how they feel about the life they are living. I once came across a potential candidate’s profile which had numerous posts about how she was “phoning it in” at her job just to get through the week.
The information found in a social media profile is rarely related to the role they are looking to obtain but can provide you with information as to who they are on a personal level. Someone who has no shame in publicly posting about “phoning it in” at their current job may be someone you want to pass over.
On the other hand, the correct social profile could take extensive time to find. For example, which “Dave Johnson” are you looking for? You might come to realize that finding some people online is difficult. And you may be spending a lot of time searching for an individual with no reward at the end.
More importantly than wasting your valuable time, are legal implications. Looking up a person’s digital profile can expose you to information about them which is not job relevant and qualifies under protected grounds which means it cannot be used when making hiring decisions. For example, characteristics such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation cannot be deciding factors of an individual's eligibility of employment.
Personal beliefs and opinions about sensitive political, religious, and lifestyle matters shared on these platforms can also influence a hiring decision. These are also potentials for a discrimination lawsuit.
So what should you do? Make sure you consider both angles for whether a digital “background check” is necessary and what information you are potentially looking for. A digital search should by no means replace traditional reference checks.
For more information on quality reference checks - check out our blog here!
If you do decide to search the digital archives for hiring purposes, it would be prudent to have someone other than the individual making hiring decisions do the searching. This puts the potential of coming across information that would give an illegal bias at an arm’s length.
In conclusion, there is a benefit to doing a little digging when it comes to the information that can be ascertained on a potential recruits ability to be a positive force or potential liability. Keep in mind, by uncovering non-job related information that falls under human rights, there is a definite risk in looking at social media profiles.
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