Magazine article HRMagazine

The Law and Social Media in Hiring

Magazine article HRMagazine

The Law and Social Media in Hiring

Article excerpt

Social media is no longer cutting- edge; it is mainstream. For HR to overlook it today would be like ignoring e-mail 20 years ago.

One of the most important intersec- tions between social media and employ- ment is in the hiring process. It is here where there are great potential risks and rewards.

Employers can use social media in two ways when hiring: to recruit candidates by publicizing job openings and to con- duct background checks to confirm a can- didate's qualifications for a position.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed its mem- bers in 2008, 2011 and 2013 on the use of social media for employee recruitment and selection. Its 2013 study revealed that 77 percent of respondent companies use social networking sites to recruit candi- dates for specific jobs, up from 56 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2008.

Smart employers want to cast as broad a net as possible to reach as many poten- tial candidates as they can, and they are increasingly harnessing social media as part of their recruitment strategy. But it should be only a part of the strategy.

EEO Concerns

Not every job seeker uses social media. This raises a concern about potential adverse impact on those who are economically less advantaged, which may correlate with certain racial and ethnic groups.

So, diver- sify your recruit- ing approaches to reach potential talent and cast a broad net. Use social media as one of many tools-not the sole one.

Remember that social media postings are "advertisements" that must include the appropriate equal employment opportunity (EEO) and/or affirmative action tagline. Further, the postings must be retained like all other hiring docu- ments as required by law (or longer if the employer's policy has a longer duration period).

When it comes to screening job appli- cants, it appears that fewer employ- ers are using social media than in the past. In the 2013 SHRM survey, 22 percent of respon- dents said they use social media web- sites like Facebook or Instagram to research job candidates, a decline from 34 percent in 2008.

When surveyed in 2013 about why they decided not to use social networking sites for candidate screening, 74 percent of organizations said they were concerned with legal risks or discovering informa- tion about protected characteristics when perusing candidates' social media pro- files. This is a legitimate concern.

For example, from a candidate's pic- ture, an employer may learn his or her likely race, approximate age and more. People also commonly post personal information such as medical or family problems.

However, the fact that the employer may learn information about a candi- date's protected-group status or other information does not mean that the employer will use it.

This same risk arises during an inter- view. Candidates often disclose informa- tion that an employer cannot consider.

I have heard it said that there are only two times when a person is perfect: at birth and at the job interview. Employ- ers use background checks to get a fuller picture of the candidate than an interview reveals. Social media screen- ing is one way to enhance the background check to determine whether a candi- date should be hired.

There can be valuable information on a candidate's social media pages that an employer lawfully can consider. Indi- viduals have posted everything from pictures of themselves scantily clad to racist rants-reasons not to hire them! Employers may also learn things that weigh in favor of hiring them, such as their relevant volunteer work. …

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