Recruiters Should Exercise Caution When Evaluating Social Media Activity of Job Candidates

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent months of employer access to the public and private social media activity of candidates and existing employees.

Recruiters? Not so much. That’s troublesome, writes employment attorney Alexander Nemiroff:

“Recruiters are increasingly turning to social media to screen and recruit candidates. Jobvite’s 2012 Social Recruiting Survey found that 92% of respondents plan to use social media for recruiting. Often, recruiters are viewing and considering information that should not be utilized in the hiring process. Lìnkedln is replete with information that should not be considered when searching for or selecting candidates. Yet, the same survey found that Linkedln is the most popular social networking site for recruiters.” (Recruiter Misuse of Social Media Can Increase Risk of Liability)

Recruiters are probably exposing themselves – and the employers for whom they work – to increasing liabilities when they research candidates on social media.

The solution? Again, Nemiroff:

“Recruiters should be restricted from considering prohibited information about applicants, whether they are working on company time or researching an applicant on their own time. They need appropriate social media guidelines and policies that are compliant with a host of laws. Further, they need to be properly trained. Ignoring this problem or simply outsourcing recruitment to a third party without careful consideration of these issues and a recruiter’s qualifications is a recipe for lawsuits.”

For starters, three key considerations:

1. Social media background searches increase the risk of discrimination claims:

“Every human resources staff member knows that, especially when interviewing a potential new employee, some topics are strictly off limits. Asking one of these ‘off limits’ questions can put your company at serious risk of being sued for discrimination. The trouble is, by resorting to the use of social media, this kind of ‘off limits’ information can be collected from a potential employee even before his or her interview.” (The Use of Social Media in Hiring Decisions: Tempting Fruit from a Poisonous Tree by McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC)

2. Social media reports are consumer reports, and governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

“Earlier this week the FTC emphasized its willingness to proceed against companies that create, or use, social media reports for employment by filing a lawsuit in the Central District of California against Spokeo, a company which marketed social media reports to employers to use as ‘a factor in deciding whether to interview a job candidate or whether to hire a job candidate after a job interview.’ The FTC alleged that because the reports related to consumers’ ‘character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living’ and were used as a factor ‘in determining the consumer’s eligibility for employment’ they constituted a ‘consumer report’ under the FCRA.” (FTC Cracks Down On The Collection Of Social Media Data For Employment Decisions by Bryan Cave)

3. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog:

“Practically speaking, many times information found online is more fiction than fact. Moreover, even factual information can be misinterpreted when taken out of context. As a result, using online information creates the following question: Is the information accurate or relevant to the job opening or does it have any bearing on the candidate’s ability to succeed in a given occupation?” (Using Social Media For Hiring: It It Worth The Risks? by BrownWinick Law Firm)

Also watch:

McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC on Social Media in the Hiring Process

[Link: Is there a way to safely use social media in the interview process?]

Sands Anderson PC on Social Media Background Checks

[Link: Be Careful With Background Checks]

Also read:

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