Social Media Screening: Good Idea or Compliance Minefield?

Social Media Screening: Good Idea or Compliance Minefield?

According to CareerBuilder’s 2016 survey on social media recruitment, the use of social media to find and screen candidates is on the rise. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (it was just 22% in 2008) and nearly as many (59%) use search engines to research candidates as well.

On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer: it’s an easy way to get a glimpse into who this person really is. 

And it’s crucial to find candidates who offer a good “fit” for the organization. According to the 2016 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Report, the #1 reason new hires fail is that their attitude and/or personality are not suited to the role, according to 53% of respondents.

Yet a significant number of employers hesitate to use social media for this purpose. Who’s right?

Social media can be extremely informative in researching job candidates.

According to CareerBuilder, nearly half (48%) of employers found information that caused them not to hire a candidate, while one-third (32%) found information that directly supported the hire. 

In the former case, they could spot “red flags” like discriminatory comments, information about drinking or use of drugs and inappropriate photographs or other information. Interviews and cover letters can present a skewed picture of a person, and to spot red flags in a person’s “real” behavior can be very helpful.

However, social media can be a legally risky, time-consuming research resource.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted its own 2016 survey – The SHRM 2016 Using Social Media for Talent Acquisition Report – and they found that many employers decline to use social media for researching prospective employees. 

The number one reason, cited by nearly half (46%), comes down to concerns about legal risks. Specifically, the law prohibits certain kinds of personal information from being used in hiring decisions (like race, gender, age, health status, religious affiliation and more), and that info can often, if inadvertently, be gleaned from social media searches. If information from social media then serves as the basis for refusing to hire, and it’s not clearly separate from that protected information, it could create a legal risk. 

More practically, it can be time-intensive to research prospective employees. Many employers simply don’t find the information they retrieve to be compelling or high quality enough to justify the time it takes to procure it. 

Plus, if we’re trying to find out what a person is “really” like, it can be difficult to extrapolate from social media profiles what a person would be like in the workplace. Often, it comes down to highly subjective interpretations of material that has nothing to do with work – and may not even be true. Many employers (21%) question the truthfulness of information contained on social media sites. 

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