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The Pros and Cons of Screening Job Candidates’ Social Media

Seemingly every day, social media becomes a bigger piece of the hiring process. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn provide large, professional networks that can help job seekers find the perfect position and help employers narrow down their recruiting search.

Social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can tell job seekers a lot about a prospective employer before a job interview, and applicant's social media profiles can tell employers a lot of important information about a candidate. However, the use of social media as part of a pre-employment screening strategy is not without controversy.

Some argue that social media screening is unethical and violates candidates' right to privacy. Many believe the views and opinions people express in their free time have no bearing on their ability to get the job done. Still, HR professionals who do implement social media screening often feel the information and photos posted on these platforms are in the public domain, and it would be negligent not to use them.

Before screening your job candidates' social media platforms and posts, make sure you understand the pros and cons of such an action before adding it to your HR toolkit. What are the pros and cons of employers checking social media? Let's take a look.

What are the Pros and Cons of Employers Checking Social Media?

Pros of Social Media Screening

Cons of Social Media Screening

Insight into professional history/network
of a candidate
Breaching privacy or uncovering personal matters
Fast, easy background checkInconsistent information available
Recommendations can be an added advantageLack of reliability
Relevant to the social media professionalsIncrease in favoritism
Opportunity for the candidateToo much information to easily analyze
Limited screening is effectivePossible legal issues

Perhaps the biggest potential drawback to conducting a social media screening on a job candidate is that it could raise equal employment opportunity concerns in certain cases. When social media vetting becomes part of the candidate screening process, a case could be made that it might unfairly discount candidates who don't have an active social media presence.

When HR professionals consider incorporating social media sites in their background checks, various factors need to be carefully evaluated to address ethical concerns. Unlike traditional background check services, screening a candidate's social accounts can reveal aspects of their personal lives, such as their day-to-day life and social interactions, in ways that previous employers never did.

Not everyone interacts with their social media profile in quite the same way; for instance, while one job candidate might use their platform to post inspiring content, another might barely use social media at all. A simple Google search can often reveal a wealth of information, including sexual orientation, which raises significant privacy and equal employment opportunity concerns.

If an HR manager views a candidate's social media account and notices that they are African-American, might that affect the decision to interview, even subconsciously? What if a candidate doesn't have a social media footprint at all? Will that adversely affect their chances of being hired or even interviewed? A business lawyer may believe that it could.

Over the past five years, there has been increasing debate about whether these insights truly help companies hire people based on their soft skills and past experience or whether they unfairly exclude candidates who don't share their personas online in the same way.

Ultimately, social media research should only be a small part of pre-screening. HR professionals should be sure to conduct a thorough screening that includes a criminal background check and reference check to get the full picture of the applicant. Facebook and LinkedIn only give a glimpse at part of a candidate's story.

KRESS helps clients get the full picture. If you have a question about social media screening or need to implement a full pre-employment screening policy fast, contact the experts at KRESS today.

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