Recruiting and Social Media


Kristina Dietrick
HR Partners

In a world where 90 percent of businesses use social media, the temptation to incorporate the wealth of knowledge available through social media during the recruitment process is growing in popularity.

WITH 43 PERCENT of employers actively using social media to screen candidates, the risks of violating a potential employee’s rights increase significantly. This can be concerning as 36 percent of organizations have disqualified candidates based on the collection of data through social media.

FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW if you are screening employment candidates through social media.

Potential Risks of Screening Candidates through Social Media:

— Invasion of privacy.
— Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.
— Disparate impact/treatment.
— Exposure of protected status, i.e., race/color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity/ transgender status and marital status/parental status.
— Exposure of protected activities/complaints, i.e., discrimination/harassment, NLRA/NLRB union activities, common law “Whistle Blowing,” workers’ compensation history, political affiliation, military status and protected leaves.
— Bankruptcy or credit difficulties.
— Criminal convictions.

So, is there a benefit to using social media for recruiting purposes? The simple answer is yes. The one benefit to using social media when sourcing applicants is the avoidance of negligent hiring. With that being said, to eliminate the potential risks, each business should check its company’s procedures.

Is Your Business Compliant?

— Is management checking on each applicant through social media in an equal, consistent manner? Deviation is discrimination.
— Do the business’ policies prohibit managers from gathering their own “background” information?
— Does the business have a written procedure to obtain the applicant’s consent to gather information from social media?

Best Practice Key Learnings:

– Businesses must obtain the applicant’s written permission to conduct the background check.

– They must advise the applicant that they may use the background information to make decisions about his/her employment.

– This notice must be in writing and in a standalone format (the notice cannot be included in the verbiage of an employment application).

There are benefits to conducting informal background checks through social media, and the trend will most likely continue to increase in popularity. If your company chooses to use social media to conduct background checks on applicants, be sure to avoid the risks and use “best practices” to prevent potential violations of the applicant’s rights. You should have a written policy in place, and be consistent in its application.


HR Partners specializes in ensuring each of our valued clients is in compliance with all laws and regulations applicable to their respective businesses, including proper recruitment strategies and processes.

Kristina Dietrick, PHR, president of HR Partners, has over 20 years of experience in the human resource field and holds the distinguished designation of Professional in Human Resources.

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