Social media snooping: Do employers really need to peek at job applicants’ Facebook and Twitter profiles?

Employers in the digital age are getting better at resolving issues around staff and social media, and now they’re taking it to the next level.
As well as reacting appropriately to inflammatory things their staff say online, they’re actually using the platform to vet job applicants.
We explore the legalities of this, whether it’s actually effective, and see why it could cause more harm than good.
We’re no stranger to a social media sacking story here at The HR Dept, and we’re sure you’re not either. They’re in the news more often than fresh rail strikes.
The problem is, people often forget that what they put online in the virtual space can cause very real trouble in the real world. Just like the policeman sacked for sending abusive messages to a TV soap actress. Or this teenager fired for publicly stating online that she found her job boring.
Social media continues to go from strength to strength. And with it, so does its impact on HR. One of the most notable recent developments is how it’s starting to play a part at the beginning of the employment relationship, not just at the end.
‘Fair enough’ we say on LinkedIn, as it’s a social media platform designed to match applicants and recruiters. Not so when it’s the less professional social media channels that are coming into play.
Employers are starting to use Facebook and Twitter to vet potential applicants. But what are they looking for? Mostly, they’re watching for anything offensive or that could indicate a bad fit with the company.
There are tools out there now to help them do it with the click of a button online (so if you’re a job seeker, make sure you’re watching what you post).
But for managers, is it effective? Usually when recruiting, the more you know, the better. Not the case though when snooping on social media.Spy-social-media - hr dept
Making judgements about a person based on the content they have on their profiles is bound to be subjective and flawed, even more so the further back in time you search.
Needless to say, social media profiles have never really provided an accurate representation of their owners anyway, especially of their ability to do a job.
And how would you be being fair to those without profiles, or with private ones? As the practice has become more common, the ethical debate grows.
The more personal details available to recruiters about an applicant, the greater the impact of unconscious bias on your recruitment pipeline.
This ultimately affects the diversity of your workforce. Social media profiles can tell a recruiter how old someone is, about their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation.
These are all protected characteristics which could land an employer in a tribunal if they were to become the basis of discrimination.
There are much better ways to get the information you need to make the right recruitment decisions: properly structured interviewing and personality profiling to name just two.
The HR Dept can help you employ the right methods to employ the right people.

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