According to a 2017 study by Careerbuilder, nearly 70% of employers screen their candidates’ social media activity. And given the steady growth of social media since then, it’s safe to assume that number only continues to grow. However, in a world of online information, a lot of questions begin to arise surrounding this controversial topic. Is it even legal to screen based on a candidate’s social media? If so, is it ethical? And even further, is it causing you to miss out on qualified talent? We’re breaking these questions down to give you an in-depth look into the role that social media plays in today’s recruiting practices.
Is it legal?
So, technically viewing any public social media is legal. You can’t fault anybody for that! However, it gets tricky when it starts affecting your hiring decisions. Employers must abide by laws prohibiting discrimination when it comes to employment practices. Even a quick glance at a candidate’s social media exposes you to the risk of making judgments based on protected classes. These include but are not limited to color, race, sex, religion, or national origin. You may even fall victim to your own unconscious bias, walking a thin line of legality.
Is it ethical?
Many employers are of the mindset that if something is public online, it is part of your personal brand. Thus, if they hire you, your brand becomes an extension of the company’s brand. While this may be true, it’s important to tread carefully with judgments based solely on social media presence. There have been a few controversial cases over the last few years where candidates were not hired because of something seen on social media.
Remember the viral story from 2019 about a girl who was not only turned down for a job but publicly shamed on a company’s social media for posting a bikini-clad photo on her personal account? While this action was technically not illegal, it certainly was not ethical. In fact, it caused the entire company to implode – completely deleting its website and social media accounts altogether.
Is it limiting your talent pool?
Legal and ethical ramifications aside, judging candidates based on their social media presence alone could be causing you to miss out on incredible employees. In order to grow, companies must diversify their talent pool based on experiences, personalities, and skillsets. By reserving judgment until a candidate has completed a full hiring process, you have a greater chance of hiring a more diverse team.
Therefore, it’s not in an employer’s best interest to screen a candidate’s social media during the hiring process. However, if a clean online presence is important to your company or a specific position, it is perfectly okay to set rules and boundaries regarding personal social accounts for onboarded employees. (And P.S., if you’re a candidate, it’s a good idea to clean up your social accounts anyway – just in case!)
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