Here’s a situation that comes up more and more these days: An employer uses social media to find and evaluate job candidates. Joe sends in a resume and the company Googles Joe. Google leads to Facebook, where there’s a picture of Joe celebrating his birthday with friends. Joe’s in a wheelchair.

Later, someone else gets the job. Joe claims your interest in him suddenly cooled after you saw his picture. If Joe’s lawyer can prove you viewed his page, you may have a hard time proving you didn’t use the information against him.

What to do
If you’ve decided to make a social media search part of your recruiting process, you probably need a standard policy/practice on how HR and hiring managers will go about it. Consider the following points:

  • Screening should be uniform. Create a list of social media to be searched for every applicant, and also list the legal information you’re looking for. It’s legal to screen for indications of such things as illegal drug use, poor work habits, bad writing skills and discriminatory tendencies.
  • A non-hiring party should do the search. Designate an employee or employees who are not in a decision-making position to do applicant social media searches. These employees function as “cut-outs,” filtering out information about race, age, disability, religion, etc. that can’t be used in the hiring decision. What hiring managers don’t know can’t be used against them.
  • Don’t get “friendly.” Organization representatives shouldn’t “friend” applicants to access their non-public profiles.
  • Document the decision. If you make a hiring decision based on a social media search/screen, be sure to have documented nondiscriminatory reasons for your action.

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