According to a recent poll by career builder, as much as 45% of companies engage in social media
pre-employment screening. As social media presence grows, so does the rise of employers conducting preliminary cyber investigations as a tool to weed out potential employees.
Employers are Googling, researching Facebook profiles, and fact- checking Linkedin profiles to see what kind of information they can garner. Employers are looking for anything from provocative photos, communication skills, and validating resume provided information, to name a few.
Many times a candidate may fabricate their past dates of employment, or perhaps change their previously held title. With the advent of social media, information can be validated more easily by employers and the applicant could be doomed.
Employers are in a position to really take of advantage of social media, and screen out certain applicants they deem unfit based upon the applicant’s social media profiles, and this can be done at very little cost. Often they are doing this prior to even interviewing the candidate, and before engaging a pre-employment background check.
Is social media sleuthing legal? Well yes and no. It depends on what you do with the information and what are your determining factors for eliminating a potential candidate. At this time, the Federal Credit Reporting Act does not restrict employers or background check companies from using this information, however there are possible laws that may be violated including discrimination based on age, race, and privacy issues. Of course the reality is, just like any case of discrimination, it may very difficult to prove. In many cases the applicant is likely to have no knowledge of the employers cyber sleuthing. And unlike a criminal background check, the employer can research the applicant without the social security number, or date of birth.
And of course, there is the question of whether or not this is ethical. Should employers be looking at your personal life? Well this depends on your point of view. Some employers think yes – they have a right to know. Applying the Vegas type slogan what happens at home stays at home – many individuals would disagree, finding this an infringement on their private lives.
Companies should use caution before conducting this type of background screening. Consulting your organizations legal counsel is in your best interest as not doing so may be cause for potential discrimination lawsuit. With the ever-changing background check laws, social media screening may soon be subject to authorization by the candidate.