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Legal Issues when using Social Media for Employment Screening

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Most people are finding ways to use social media for their own advantage, so it makes sense that employers would do the same. Many employers use popular social media sites to screen potential candidates. They know that applicants can lie on paper applications and resumes, so using social media sites enables employers to learn more about each individual. Hiring takes time, money and resources. In today's economy, few employers can afford to have a high turnover rate, so they are taking every step necessary to prevent that.

By looking at social media profiles, employers may spot problem candidates. For example, a reckless candidate may post a status message about partying and using illegal substances. Since the information is often public and always free, employers simply see it as a way to prevent losing money. However, this practice may actually end up costing a fortune. If a candidate is turned down for a job because of information on his or her social media profile, that individual may be able to file a discrimination lawsuit. It is important for employers to remember that discrimination laws also apply during the screening process. To be protected from such an event, remember the following three tips.

1. Only learn what is permissible. By reading a social media profile, an employer can learn information about a candidate that could not be asked in a job interview. For example, if an employer sees that a candidate has radical political beliefs, he or she will not be able to ask that candidate such questions. Most employers know that asking about religion, political beliefs and certain personal details can be considered discrimination. If the information learned cannot be asked in an interview, avoid wasting time looking for it.

2. Keep thorough records. It is important to retain records about all applicants. Be sure to indicate why each individual was hired or declined. Writing down the non-discriminatory reasons for refusing to hire a person may take extra time. However, if there is ever suspicion of discrimination, it is important to have this information available immediately.

3. Maintain a non-discriminatory appearance. Use the job description to make a checklist of qualifications. When browsing social media pages, look for those qualifications on the sites of each applicant. This is the only acceptable way to use these sites.

Keep in mind that a social media site may not always have true information. Many applicants know that employers might be looking at their individual pages, so they polish them to look as appealing as possible. The overall idea to remember is that social media sites must be used with extreme caution or simply avoided. 


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