© Copyright ClearPath Benefits

Better Research through Social Media

Originally posted on www.ubabenefits.com.

As the saying goes, what happens on social media stays on social media. But that doesn’t mean anyone has the right to dig through someone else’s personal history if they’re being considered for a job. This task should be left to a company’s HR department or their hiring managers.

It’s true that social media can be extremely revealing when it comes to finding out more about an applicant than they would normally divulge during an interview. However, to lessen any liability, it’s best to let a dedicated person or department perform this type of research. Why? Because they will usually know the legalities of navigating a candidate’s social media as well as treating each search consistently when gathering information they consider relevant to the hiring process.

An article on Society for Human Resource Management’s website shrm.org titled, Minimize Potential Liability with Social Media, gets into the nitty-gritty of this, but also sheds light on the importance of checking an applicant’s social media. For example, if an applicant posts text, photos, or videos that the company deems inappropriate (e.g., threatening, racist, crude, offensive, unprofessional, etc.), then the company would have a genuine reason not to hire him or her.

There are other strategies recommended in the online article such as:

  • It’s advisable to conduct social media checks at the end of the application process. It’s less risky that way because the interview process may reveal that a candidate should be eliminated for other reasons, or the candidate may disclose what’s discoverable on his or her social media sites.
  • Never ask a job applicant for their social media passwords. There are currently 18 states that prohibit this and it also might be prohibited by the Stored Communications Act.
  • Have a plan to only review specific websites and only look at content that’s available to the public. Furthermore, only look at content that’s been posted by the applicant and not what others have said about him or her.
  • If a third party is used for this process, make sure they comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • In some cases it may be worthwhile to provide the applicant with an opportunity to explain anything negative.
  • Finally, if an applicant is being rejected based on social media, make sure it’s not in conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.