May 12th, 2017 | Sterling

Infographic: What Can Employers Learn Via Social Media Screening?

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The rise of social media has had an effect on every aspect of modern life from connecting friends and families across the globe to the instantaneous sharing of breaking news events to helping people find new jobs. We are at a point where we cannot live without our social media connections. Once a social media post or photos are published, they are now public and can be viewed by anyone (unless the post and the account are set as private).

Social media is used in all aspects of the hiring process from recruiting to background screening. According to the soon to be released Sterling 2017 US Benchmarking Survey, 66% of employers do some form of social media screening, meaning a third of employers do not use any form of social media screening. In the UK, a survey by and YouGov revealed that 36% of UK employers had rejected a candidate based on their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles, while more than half of UK HR professionals admit that a candidate’s online reputation can influence their decision to hire them.

Characteristics Learned Via Social Media Profiles

Employers can get vital insight about a candidate by looking at their social media profiles. Most avid social media users can share detailed information about their personality, lifestyle, behavior and goals on their pages. Social media profiles can reveal red flags from a CV as well as evidence of drug use, bad-mouthing a previous employer or co-workers or even disclosure of confidential information. There are also other characteristics about a candidate that may be revealed in social media posts:

  • Written Communications Skills: An employer can learn a lot about a candidate by how they write their social media posts. Do they clearly communicate the points they are trying to make? How do they conduct themselves if they are criticized? And most importantly, does the candidate use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation or just post in “text speech”?
  • Candidate’s Goals: Employers can learn about a candidate’s goals and ambitions by seeing the professional connections and recommendations. This can also enlighten how a candidate engages with these organisations.
  • Cultural Fit: Social media profiles will allow a recruiter or hiring manager to get a better look at the informal life of the candidate. Are they creative and do they share their creativity on their social media pages? Are they respectful to others? Could they be a team player?

Tips for Social Media Screening

When searching social media profiles of potential employees, employers often discover information that is helpful in making employment decisions but may also become aware of information that should not be used to make employment decisions. Although using social media to make employment decisions might carry some risks, it can also be a valuable tool in hiring good employees and avoiding poor ones. By following a few simple tips, employers can prevent putting their business at risk:

  • Timing of Social Media Searches: Wait until after the interview to do a social media search. By doing the social media search at this time, a company is less likely to be accused of relying on protected characteristics evident in social media profiles when they are making the hiring decision.
  • Leaving the Screening to Professionals: It is a good idea to have someone other than the hiring manager search the candidate’s profiles. HR professionals are more likely to know what information is appropriate for consideration and can inform the decision maker appropriately.
  • Social Profile Information: Sensitive personal information should not be used as part of the recruitment process. Hiring managers should never use information related to a candidate’s age, disability, gender reassignment, marital status, race, religious beliefs, sex or sexual orientations when making a hiring decision.
  • Compliance with Data Protection and Privacy Laws: Employers must be compliant with the UK Data Protection Act (and eventually the General Data Protection Regulation) as well as the Employment Practices Code. Social media searches will exclude non-user generated content, sensitive personal data and protected characteristics.
  • Be Transparent: Candidates must be informed if a social media or other online search is being used to research information that could affect their application. They should be given a chance to respond to and explain the material should it influence the hiring manager’s decision. Hiring decisions should be targeted on finding information relevant to the decision to offer employment.
  • Record Retention: Personal data collected during the recruitment process should not be kept for longer than necessary where the individual was not hired. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office recommends that record retention should be six months.

Create a Clear Social Media Screening Policy

With social media screening becoming more prevalent in the hiring process, employers should develop a clear policy towards the use of social media for recruitment purposes, in consultation with employees or their representatives where this is required under the law. Companies should have a background screening policy in place to help document compliance and the hiring process. Find out how the world is becoming a more social place in our infographic, Social Media Screening.

Infographic: Social Media Searching

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.