In the last twenty years, social media websites have grown in both their numbers and influence at an unprecedented rate. Regulating the uses and misuses of the information these websites generate is a constant challenge to both our legal system and society at large. Millions share personal content every day on public websites that can be easily accessed. Possession of a simple password can reveal an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, opinions and everyday behavior for anyone to view. The news is filled with examples of both the best and worst impulses of human nature that social media lays bare for all the world to judge. We’ve all seen examples of how quickly social media posts can elevate or destroy careers. Prospective job candidates and potential employers both have much to gain or lose when it comes to the management of social media. How then should candidates, as well as employers and potential employers, manage social media?
Legally, companies are not prohibited from searching a public social media account and examining the posts. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a survey in 2013 that revealed, “77% of organizations reported using social networking sites to recruit potential job candidates” (SHRM.org). However, Human Resources is limited to what information they can consider during the hiring process, including any information learned from social media. In order to abide by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), anything on a social media page that does not directly relate to the job role cannot be considered. For example, employers cannot hold an individual’s race, religion, or sexual orientation against them when hiring, even though they may discover this information when researching a social media account. So, in the same way that only specific information can be learned from a background check or during a face-to-face interview, only certain information from a social media account can affect the hiring process.
If a social media post is made public, everyone has a right to see it - including employers. This can be beneficial if the employer likes what they see. Social media is a great way to highlight personal achievements, past work projects, and additional freelance work. Building a strong personal brand through social media can be very advantageous to a person seeking employment. Alternatively, employers can just as easily discover unwanted information through social media. This would include coming across racist rants, sexist comments, or any other degrading behavior that opposes a company’s values.
Although pre-employment social media screening is on the rise, it is by no means a replacement for background screening. Other than the legal liabilities that employers face, there are a few other reasons why social media screening shouldn’t be relied on. Social media postings do not provide a clear, complete representation of an individual. Individuals are in sole control of what they post on their account. This means they have the ability to hide or over-exaggerate any part of their life. Additionally, social media posts typically are of social importance and do not reflect the candidate’s professional persona. Employers can receive a construed image of a candidate this way. In terms of gaining relevant and job-related information on a candidate, social media isn’t likely to be helpful.
A much more efficient and legally-compliant method of narrowing potential clients early in the hiring process is performing reference checks. While performing reference checks may seem like an extensive and tedious task, by no means does it have to be. Reflynk innovates the traditional way of performing reference checks by phone, and instead, utilizes an email and text-message survey to compile data and responses. This expedites the entire process, and affords candid responses in much less time. Compared to social media screening, using Reflynk will provide a more accurate impression of each candidate and has no legal risks involved.
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* As a pre-employment background screening firm, it should be noted that we do NOT currently conduct any social media screening. We leave the option to screen social media accounts up to our clients.