â€œYou are what you share.â€ ― C.W. Leadbeater, We Think: The Power of Mass Creativity
Recruiters everywhere have taken to checking their prospective employeesâ€™ social media profiles before hiring them. This trend is in keeping with the advent of technology in our daily lives. When we make our personal information available online for everyone to see, we often forget that is also accessible to our future employers.
According to a survey of 300 recruitment professionals, social media screening is conducted by a whopping 91% of them. Moreover, 69% of the professionals claim to have rejected candidates based on their online presence. A very senior HR Consultant for a prestigious international law firm says, â€œIt can be a detractor or an enhancer to your consideration for employment. For example, if pictures are posted on your facebook account that show you drinking alcohol or doing something very unprofessional or illegal, it can definitely take you out of the running for certain jobs.â€
The following infographic (Source: The Undercover Recruiter) says it all.
As we can see, social media screening can prove an excellent judge of an individualâ€™s impression, and the company can hire someone who to the best of their knowledge is a perfect personality fit for their organisation.
Another recent study, however, suggests that the practice potentially drove away qualified applicants who feel that their privacy has been compromised.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that regardless of whether they were offered the position, when job applicants realize their social media profiles have been screened, they are more likely to perceive the hiring process as unfair. This has serious consequences for the organizationâ€™s goodwill and can invite litigations.
The concept of social media screening is relatively new and not all companies have clear guidelines on the matter. If not used correctly, it can spark violations of any anti-discriminatory laws. Many companies lack clear guidelines about how and when it should be usedâ€”raising questions about whether the practice violates any antidiscrimination laws and come across as inconsistent. Even without realization, screening of a social media profile can ignite latent prejudices and therefore, colour the judgement of the recruiter.
For example, if a recruiter searches someone on LinkedIn, his/her name flashes in the profile views. The candidate knows that you have viewed his profile. Even if the candidate is not selected eventually, he can harbour the feeling that it is due to his caste/age/religion etc., just because he knows that they could be a factor. This begrudging attitude is exactly what must be avoided.
With employees being most precious assets of any organisation, it is imperative that future hires get turned off by the company and shun their hiring process as biased and unfair. Not just that, it can seem like a colossal invasion of their privacy. The â€œWhat I do on my own time is not anybodyâ€™s businessâ€ also hold true for most of them, and with fair reason.
A renowned Recruitment Strategist supports this line of thought. She says, â€œI think age/maturity/venue considerations should be taken into consideration, as well as whether or not a “beer chug” photo has relevance to the job. If the person is not applying for a public face of the company role, does it really matter if they drink on weekends or evenings? And, if they are running for public office or up for CEO of the year, does it matter what they did when they were in a fraternity 20 years ago provided no illegal behavior or arrests or convictions were involved? Same for expression of views as long as they aren’t opposite or related to the job/company. Discretion is relative to age and maturity.â€
Finding the Middle Ground
The foremost solution is to get the candidates screened only for certain parameters, that too by a third party that is not a decisive authority for hiring. These parameters could be:
1. Mention of education
2. Mention of past employment
3. Any illegal/nefarious activity
4. Any substance abuse (Example: Drugs or underage drinking)
These parameters could be checked, compiled and sent over to the recruiters for a fair decision. This strategy provides the organization with the legitimately helpful facts while arguably protecting it from a discrimination claim.
Checking the Facts: The Role of the Background Screening Industry
Ideally, a Background Screening agency is sourced to provide a clear, unbiased perspective on the social media presence of a potential employee. Sometimes, the agency conducts this particular check without being asked in an investigative process for a suspected discrepant case. For example, if the traditional sourced investigation points to a forged credential, the candidateâ€™s social media presence may lead to pointers that prove the same. However, it is of paramount importance that the agency screens ONLY the information that is made public by the candidate. In no circumstances can a hack or spyware be taken into account. Here is an example.
While screening a case for our client, Stern smelt a rat in the candidateâ€™s employment history. The company he claimed to be working in couldnâ€™t be traced, neither was the company found on open internet searches. It was later found that the company was shut in 2007, but the candidate claimed to be an employee of the company in 2012. While searching the Facebook profile of the candidate, we came across his status update about his â€œfirst salaryâ€ in 2012. On reading the comments below, we found that the candidate was an employee of a different company during that period.
Strictly done for smoothening out discrepancies and the overall social presence, Social Media Screening is extremely beneficial.
Employers should also realize that there is a fine line between social media screening and invasion of privacy. It is preferable that the applicants are made aware of the social media screening in advance and assured that the mentioned parameters and none other would be taken into account. Employers should talk with counsel about their practices and procedures and ensure that they are both legal and done in a way that reduces exposure to liability. With this, we are sure to get the best of both worlds.