Does Your Company Need Social Media Screening?
Posted: June 15, 2021
We are constantly asked if it is necessary to screen job candidates’ social media profiles. The answer is yes! Millennials have entered the workforce in droves over the past few decades, completely changing the way businesses conduct background checks. According to Pew Research, millennials account for 35 percent of the U.S. workforce. There are also 61 million Gen Z’ers (born after 1996) about to enter the workforce who “want to be socially connected with everyone.” Like it or not, these younger generations go hand in hand with social media since it is ingrained in every part of their daily lives. As a result, millennials and Gen Zers build strong online identities, which can provide critical information in hiring decisions. Employment background checks provide information obtained from a variety of sources, including employment history, credit reports, criminal records, and social media. In response to the younger generations’ rise in the workforce, employers have turned to social media to advertise job openings, research job applicants, and conduct background checks. This process often includes checking job applicants’ social media accounts, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube during the hiring and screening process. In fact, according to Info Cubic’s research, “70% of employers use social media and online search engines to screen candidates before hiring, and 54% have found content on social media or during an online search that caused them to fire or not to hire an individual.” Why Do Employers Use Social Media Screening? Many hiring managers have the urge to search for a potential job candidate’s social media accounts. Is there a photo of him or her doing a keg stand during spring break? Did the applicant threaten a neighbor in a Nextdoor.com post? Is he or she a good fit for the company’s culture? If social media screening is conducted legally, it can be a powerful tool for employers to identify red flags about job applicants, possibly revealing illegal activity, violent conduct, demonstrations of racism, etc. It can provide a solid ROI since it allows companies to avoid poor, costly hiring decisions. On the flip side, social media screening also carries a significant legal risk if it is done incorrectly. Is Social Media Screening Legal? Despite its growing popularity, social media screening is often contested since it comes with legal liabilities. According to this Los Angeles Times article, in the 2010 case of Gaskell v. Univ. of Kentucky, Martin Gaskell settled with the University of Kentucky after not being offered an academic position over alleged religious discrimination. Gaskell accused the employer of conducting an online search that revealed that Gaskell was an evangelical Christian who doubted the theory of evolution. It is important to follow FRCA compliance in social media screening and Info Cubic can help to ensure your social media screening is FCRA compliant. Additionally, since every country and state has different laws regarding social media screening, it is crucial to have a good understanding of its legal ramifications. If an applicant doesn’t get the job, social media screening can lead to allegations under numerous laws. To prevent this, a company must have a documented, transparent process of obtaining information, and be able to demonstrate that the information collected from social media information accurately predicts future job performance. According to Info Cubic’s research, “Employers often do social media screening inconsistently, which may be unintentionally discriminatory.” Here are a few legal ramifications of social media screening:
- Social media screening can put an employer at risk of seeing sensitive information during the application process, which might subject them to legal liability. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 names race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, age, and citizenship status as “protected characteristics.” If an applicant can prove that they were not hired because of one of these traits, they may be able to take legal action against the employer.
- Using social media screening to prescreen applicants might also be subject to an FCRA regulation violation.
- Many states, including California, Maryland, Virginia, and Illinois, have laws to prevent employers from obtaining current and prospective employees’ social media passwords.
- It is important to have a consistent process in place, so every candidate’s social media footprint is researched using the same method or there could be potential discrimination accusations.