The Applicant Manager Blog

Subscribe to Email Updates

Search

Recent Posts

Ways to Hire & Onboard Remote Workers

Ways to Hire & Onboard Remote Workers

Ways to Hire & Onboard Remote Workers Recruiting remote workers has shifted to become a main focus for many businesses. Prior to the pandemic, many companies had little to no best practices in place for recruiting, hiring and onboarding remote workers and had to...

Tips & Trick for Onboarding a New Hire

Tips & Trick for Onboarding a New Hire

Tips & Tricks for Onboarding a New Hire Finding a new employee may seem like the end of a journey, but a new one is just beginning. Ensuring a smooth onboarding process is critical. It’s not as easy as filling out forms and starting the new job. Having a...

Using Data to Help the Hiring Process

Using Data to Help the Hiring Process

Using Data to Help the Hiring Process Recruiting employees is vital to the success of your business, but it can be difficult to focus your efforts. Recruitment software can help your business analyze data to produce the best results.  Leveraging the power of data can...

Should Employers Use Social Media to Screen Job Applicants?

by | Dec 14, 2018 | applicant screening, Recruiting Best Practices, social media

A phone showing Facebook login screen and Scrabble tiles spelling "social media"

If you use social media to screen applicants, you’re not alone. The Harris Poll conducted a national survey of hiring managers and HR professionals on behalf of CareerBuilder during the spring of 2018. The study revealed that 70 percent of employers now use social media sites to research applicants during the recruiting process.

Maybe you’re wondering why that number isn’t higher? After all, we live in an increasingly connected world where more and more people have social media accounts. Why not take advantage of that free peek into the personalities and characteristics of would-be employees? 

Social media screening has rewards, but it also carries risks. In this post, we’ll break down the pros and cons of using social media screening when hiring. Let’s get started!

The Benefits of Using Social Media to Screen Applicants

The information is free and easy to access on public profiles. One obvious benefit to reviewing job applicants’ social media presence is that the person’s details are often public and freely available for anyone to review. A quick search on a social network can quickly reveal a lot about a job seeker.

A social presence can give you a glimpse into what other people say about the applicant. Sites like LinkedIn give people the opportunity to recommend others. Testimonials on a person’s profile can give you insights about what a candidate may bring to the job.

A review of social media can help you weed out the bad apples. Unfortunately, some people have social profiles that are celebrations of poor judgment, bad decisions, criminal activity, and other generally bad behavior. Fortunately for you, you can see these behaviors and weed out applicants before you ever invite them in for an interview. 

The Risks of Using Social Media to Screen Applicants

Your decision-making could be unconsciously biased by what you see. Let’s say a candidate you screen via social media has a pretty clean profile. He loves sports, has a dog. Oh, he also mentions that he’s a member of a certain religion and is proud of his heritage.

Or what about the woman who just applied? Maybe you see her terrific profile plus the fact that she’s just announced that she’s pregnant. You know you can’t discriminate based on pregnancy, but you may still have had a little nagging thought of, “oh, she will go on maternity leave within the year if I hire her.” Unconscious bias can affect everyone from time to time.

If you wouldn’t (and you shouldn’t) ask questions during an interview that would require disclosure of the information mentioned above, then you need to carefully weigh the risk versus the reward when it comes to reviewing social media profiles, especially the personal ones like Facebook and Instagram. 

Social media screenings could leave you open to allegations of discrimination. If you plan to use social media screenings as part of your process, you may find a candidate accusing you of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A person could claim you saw his or her ethnicity, religious affiliation, or other protected information and used that information in your decision making.

Even if you don’t use social media screenings, it’s not inconceivable to think people could make these same accusations just based on the assumption that you might have viewed their public profiles.

A thorough screening policy coupled with documentation about each candidate’s qualifications and your decision-making process could be useful if you ever face a lawsuit.

How Should You Proceed?

If you plan on using social media to help you vet candidates for open positions, you should keep these tips from Les Rosen of Employment Screening Resources in mind.

  • Perform a social media check with the applicant’s consent only after you’ve made a job offer. The offer is contingent upon the completion of the check.
  • Develop a standard screen process that demonstrates how hiring decisions are based objectively on job description criteria.
  • Consider using a third party to perform the social media check with the third party providing only job-related information to help you make a hiring decision.

However, a better alternative to social media screening is to use an applicant tracking system (ATS) that keeps you focused on the objective, job-related data when screening applicants. An ATS gives you the tools to look beyond simple resumes, applications and pre-screening questions in evaluating job candidates, with options like custom-prescreening and pass-fail questions to screen out under-qualified candidates. 

Click below to read our guide to selecting the best ATS for your business.

Learn More

Employment and Social Media in Recruitment and Selection: Screening Job Applicants

In terms of social media and job applicants, if you use social media sites to screen applicants, then you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted last year by The Manifest, a business news and how-to website, 90% of employers find social media important when they evaluate candidates. In addition, 79% of HR professionals have denied a job to a candidate due to inappropriate content on social media.

In other words, that’s nine out of every 10 employers who find social media important when evaluating candidates. Considering the proliferation of social media in our lives, that number is not too surprising. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be surprising if the number was 10 out of 10. And who knows? One day in the near future, that will most likely be the case.

After all, we live in an increasingly connected world where more and more people have social media accounts. Why not take advantage of that free peek into the personalities and characteristics of would-be employees? Well, since we went to all the trouble of posing this question, the least we can do is attempt to answer it.

Using social media to screen job seekers and applicants has rewards, but it also carries its fair share of risks. In this blog post, we’ll break down the pros and cons of social media and job applicants in the recruiting process. Let’s get started!

Social media and employment: the benefits of screening applicants

So when it comes to social media and job applicants nine out of 10 employers would not use social media to evaluate applicants unless they believed there is some sort of benefit derived from doing so. So before we discuss the risks involved in using social media for this purpose, let’s take a look at some of the benefits, including the following three:

#1—The information is free and easy to access on public profiles.

One obvious benefit to reviewing job applicants’ social media presence is that the person’s details are often public and freely available for anyone to review. A quick search on a social network can quickly reveal a lot about a job seeker.

#2—A social presence can give you a glimpse into what other people say.

What they say about the applicant, that is. Social media sites like LinkedIn give people the opportunity to recommend others. Testimonials on a person’s profile can give you insights about what a candidate may bring to the job and what kind of value they can offer.

#3—A review of social media can help you eliminate “bad apples.”

Unfortunately, some people have social profiles that are celebrations of poor judgment, bad decisions, criminal activity, and other generally bad behavior. Fortunately for you, you can see these behaviors and eliminate applicants before you ever invite them in for an interview. According to the same Manifest survey mentioned above, 79% of HR professionals have denied a job candidate due to inappropriate content that they found on the candidate’s social media accounts.

The risks of using social media in recruitment and selection

However, there is a “flip side to the coin” in terms of using social media in recruitment and selection. Your first question might be, “Is it even legal to check out applicants’ social media profiles?”

The short answer is “Yes . . . as long as the hiring manager or HR professional is viewing public information.” (And you’d be surprised by how many job applicants have their social media profiles set to “public” without even realizing that’s the case.) Another answer to that question might be, “Yes . . . for now.” Since the protection of consumer data and privacy is such a hot topic these days, there’s no telling what the future holds in terms of social media and employment. Of course, this possibility opens up a set of other questions. For example, if a law is passed prohibiting hiring managers to use social media to screen job applicants, then how will that law be enforced? And if it’s successfully enforced, what will the penalties be?

But regardless of whether it’s legal (or even ethical) to use social media in the hiring process to screen job seekers and applicants, there are still very real risks involved with doing so. Below are two of the biggest risks:

#1—Your decision making could be unconsciously biased by what you see.

Let’s say a candidate you screen via social media has a pretty clean profile. He loves sports, has a dog. Oh, he also mentions that he’s a member of a certain religion and is proud of his heritage.

Or what about the woman who just applied? Maybe you see her terrific profile plus the fact that she’s just announced that she’s pregnant. You know you can’t discriminate based on pregnancy, but you may still have had a little nagging thought of, “oh, she will go on maternity leave within the year if I hire her.” Unconscious bias can affect everyone from time to time.

If you wouldn’t (and you shouldn’t) ask questions during an interview that would require disclosure of the information mentioned above, then you need to carefully weigh the risk versus the reward when it comes to reviewing social media profiles, especially the personal ones like Facebook and Instagram.

#2—Social media screenings could leave you open to allegations of discrimination.

If you plan to use social media screenings as part of your process, you may find a candidate accusing you of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A person could claim you saw his or her ethnicity, religious affiliation, or other protected information and used that information in your decision making.

Even if you don’t use social media screenings, it’s not inconceivable to think people could make these same accusations just based on the assumption that you might have viewed their public profiles. A thorough screening policy coupled with documentation about each candidate’s qualifications and your decision-making process could be useful if you ever face a lawsuit.

Social media and job applicants: how should you proceed?

Now that we’ve addressed the benefits and analyzed the risks involved with social media and employment, we still have one more question to answer: “How should you proceed?” As is often the case in situations such as these, “With caution” seems to be the correct answer. However, you’re sure to be seeking a more specific answer to that questions. 

So if you plan to use social media in recruitment and selection, then keep in mind these three helpful tips from Les Rosen of Employment Screening Resources:

  1. Perform a social media check with the applicant’s consent only after you’ve made a job offer. The offer is contingent upon the completion of the check.
  2. Develop a standard screen process that demonstrates how hiring decisions are based objectively on job description criteria.
  3. Consider using a third party to perform the social media check with the third party providing only job-related information to help you make a hiring decision.

When it comes to social media and employment, “better safe than sorry” should be the mantra. Do not underestimate the power of unconscious bias. Regardless of your best intentions, it has the potential to negatively affect your decision making, and by extension, the results of the hiring process.

Social media, the hiring process, and your ATS

A better alternative to using social media in recruitment and selection is to use an intuitive and powerful applicant tracking system (ATS). The best ATS software for recruiting and hiring can keep you focused on what’s most important in terms of screening applicants: simple, job-related data.

The right applicant tracking software can look beyond simple resumes to find the information you need to make the best hire possible. It does this through, among other things, custom prescreening and pass-fail questions designed to screen out under-qualified job candidates.

The Applicant Manager (TAM) is just such an ATS! TAM offers a full suite of applicant tracking and evaluation features that can help you source, recruit, and hire the best job candidates for your company’s open positions. These features include a simple all-in-one candidate profile, custom interview guides for job-related assessments, easy applicant disposition (thumbs up or thumbs down), and multiple options for sharing resumes and soliciting feedback.

Click below to read our guide to selecting the best ATS for your business!

Learn More

(Editor’s note: the information provided in this blog post should NOT be construed as legal advice. If you have specific questions about this topic, consult your legal counsel.)