Once a little used approach, job applicant screening through social media is used by upwards of 70% of employers today. There are, however, some risks that come with the territory, particularly regarding grounds for discrimination lawsuits. With the right plan, however, you can harness the hiring strength of this applicant screening tool and minimize the potential negatives. Here are five tips to help you build your strategy.
Social media screening of job applicants is constrained by state law. While all employers are permitted to access public online information, only a few states permit you to request access to the full social networking account and profile. The more data you have, the more informed your hiring decision will be, so do the research to learn the scope of material you’re allowed to collect before you get started.
It makes sense that evaluating applicants’ presences on more sites will increase your available screening material. Don’t limit your search to the typical LinkedIn profiles – make sure to also include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram on the list of platforms to investigate.
This is the most difficult and complicated step in the whole process. Whether you plan to examine social media yourself or have a recruiter extract the critical information, developing a checklist is essential. It will not only reduce the time you spend trying to decide whether different elements of an applicant’s profile are important or relevant, but it will also reduce biases by helping you focus on the information that should influence whether you extend a job offer.
Start by brainstorming everything you’re hoping to gain by screening candidates using social media. Then, determine what is the most important and how you will evaluate whether applicants meet your standards. For example:
Competencies: Communication skills are the most obvious ability to evaluate on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, platforms geared primarily toward written posts and comments. Check for spelling, clarity, and grammar when examining these profiles in particular. For other traits and abilities, look at a candidate’s conversations about hobbies and volunteerism.
Qualifications: Social media can also be used alongside references to verify the achievements listed on each resume. Of all candidates rejected as a result of social media screening, 24% lied about their qualifications in their applications. Determine a few specific aspects of each resume to be verified and note the date ranges in which you are likely to find information about each.
Professionalism: 56% of employers are already using social media to evaluate a job seeker’s professional image. Between 46% and 34% of disqualified job seekers are rejected based on unprofessional behavior such as inappropriate online content, evidence of drinking and drug use, and speaking poorly about a previous employer. On the other hand, one in three hiring managers found positive information by screening candidates using social media, 38% of which involved the potential hire’s professional image.
One of the greatest concerns when screening candidates is the potential for pregnancy, race, gender, or other protected candidate characteristics to subconsciously influence your hiring decision. The outline you will create in the next step will help mitigate some of these potential effects, but you can go even further by having someone else dig through the actual social networking profiles and report pertinent information back to you. This way, you will only be exposed to information that can be used to make a hiring choice.
You should always start a discussion whenever you uncover potentially disqualifying information, but especially when that insight comes from a social media screening. Job seekers may have a perfectly reasonable—or at least, acceptable—explanation to settle your concerns. And remember: social media can be hacked, so there is no guarantee that what you are seeing was even posted by your prospective new employee.
Social media screening of job applicants can uncover red flags and help you identify top talent. However, it is important that you are careful to avoid potential discrimination allegations related to the personal information you might find. Follow the steps outlined above to safely add social media to your applicant screening toolbox and start making great hires!