Facebook: The New Pre-employment Screening Tool?

April 27, 2015

Not only has social media changed the way businesses interact with, market to, and reach their customers, but it has had a profound effect on the way the human resources department finds potential candidates. In a new reality and unchartered job landscape, HR departments and job hunters are navigating the online social scene to find one another. 

As the entire world shifts towards the digital age, job candidates are becoming more inclined to perform job searches via social media rather than traditional methods, such as recruitment agencies, online job portals or traditional newspaper classified advertisements.

In order to reach these candidates, HR professionals are using social media platforms (like LinkedIn and Facebook) as part of their recruitment strategies. The only issue is that screening job candidates and performing background searches via social media can be a risky and potentially controversial venture for employers.

Facebook as a screening tool

It’s no secret that employers peruse candidates’ Facebook and Twitter profiles in preparation for making hiring decisions. Why? For one thing, it’s the most convenient way to find out about the person you intend on hiring. Another reason is that employers try to gain a more personal view of the candidate rather than that of the professional image portrayed on LinkedIn.

However, this kind of recruitment strategy can have serious implications and employers must be aware of possible discrimination, privacy, legal and ethical concerns. A complete no-no is for an HR professional to view a candidate’s private content on Facebook through mutual friends or by befriending the individual themselves.

Handle with care

The decision of whether or not to include social media as part of a screening program must be approached with care and dependability, and data gained from these sites must be judged fairly or the organisation risks losing otherwise suitable candidates. After all, social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, are a much less trustworthy source of information than written records.

Establish a clear written social media and employment screening policy that can help guide HR departments. This policy must clearly state what can and cannot be done and what is considered acceptable, legal practice.

Reputation and PrivacyConcerns

Admittedly, the importance of a social media profile rises with the seniority of the position for which the candidate is being considered. Checks done must correspond with the level of risk of the job as the company’s reputation could suffer. The inappropriate or indiscrete behaviour of an entry-level or administrative individual will be more easily accepted than the misbehaviour of an individual at Director level, especially if the activity is contrary to the values of the organisation.

Although social media makes previously personal information public, the old rules still apply. Employment background screening is done with the candidate’s consent to ensure complete transparency and it’s no different when researching a candidate’s social media presence. This is critical to avoid an invasion of data privacy, where information on an individual’s private life is sought without their consent. If a candidate discovers that his or her application was rejected due to the recruiter’s intrusive act of checking their social media, it could lead to a major legal altercation. Above all, it would be unwise to make a hiring decision based only on what is found on a candidate’s Facebook profile.

Ultimately, best practice for any employer is to rely on credible and authenticated sources of information such as court records, credit checks, previous employment and history of education, when verifying candidates.

iFacts has a social media policy document that can assist you if you are considering social media as part of your screening process.  Download it HERE in the Reference Papers section

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