Thinking About Screening Applicants on Social Media? Read This First!


Are you thinking about using social media to screen job applicants? According to a study by social media monitoring service Reppler, more than 90 percent of the recruiters and hiring managers surveyed have visited a potential candidate’s profile on a social network as part of the screening process. Another interesting find from the survey is 69 percent of recruiters have rejected a candidate based on content found on his or her social networks. At the same time, 68 percent have actually hired a candidate based on information found on his or her social media profiles.

Social media recruiting does present a new opportunity for hiring managers to expand their applicant pool, but there are several reasons employers should use caution if they choose to screen the social media accounts of job candidates. 

– You risk alienating potential employees. Even though social networks give employers information about job applicants they may not otherwise share during the hiring process, using these sites to uncover new information could be detrimental to the company’s hiring process. “The recruiting and selection process is your first indication of how you’ll be treated by a prospective employer,” says Will Stoughton, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University and author of a paper describing research on social media screenings. “If elite job prospects feel their privacy has been compromised, it puts the hiring company at a competitive disadvantage.”

– You risk misinterpreting or using prohibited information. Employers are prohibited from considering specific information in the hiring process, including information about the applicant’s race, gender, religion or membership in some other protected class. But anyone can scan an applicant’s social media page and find information such as an applicant’s age, religion, national origin, marital status, pregnancy status and disability—these are all pieces of information that may not be obvious during an in-person interview but would be considered “unlawful to use in an employment decision” if uncovered on social media, according to insight from Inside Counsel.

If your business has included social media screenings as part of the hiring and recruiting process, there are several steps you can take to make sure you and your HR colleagues are aligned on how to best perform social media background screens in a safe and helpful manner.

1. Build Social Media into Your Screening Policy

Create a written social media screening policy that outlines how your company will carry out the search and who will be responsible for actually conducting the social media screening. Consider requiring someone other than the hiring manager to conduct the screening so the decision maker isn’t exposed to prohibited information.

2. Define How Websites Will Be Searched

A standard search policy should clarify which websites your company will screen, how the sites will be searched and the types of information the screener will be looking for. For example, saying negative things about a previous employer, violent acts, unlawful activity and discriminatory activity are some of the red flags HR may look for during a social media screening. But Sara Jodka in Law Practice Today stresses “employers should ensure the items screened correlate with the candidate’s fitness for the job.”

3. Keep Track of Employment Decisions and Social Media Information

Thorough documentation of your hiring process is important to ensure your entire HR department and hiring managers are aligned. This includes documenting social media screenings and the findings that could be considered in employment decisions. You’re already responsible for tracking all applications and related hiring documents for each candidate. By also documenting your social media findings during the screening process, you can provide a solid and consistent record of the type of information that was obtained.

With the right tools in place, your business can effectively create, share and collaborate on hiring and screening policies. Additionally, applicant tracking software (ATS) make it even easier to retain applications, hiring documentation and screening data for every candidate in a single online system, which reduces risk and increases compliance with employment regulations. Contact Hyrell to learn more about ATS reporting and data retention. 

We’ve shared these tips to help educate you on social media employment screenings and considerations for your business—this information should not be construed as legal advice. But if your company chooses to screen applicants on social media or want to explore the topic even further, consult with an attorney for advice related to this screening tactic.


photo credit: tomsun via photopin cc

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