Social media is a huge part of life now, and it has significantly changed the way businesses work. Companies can now post recruitment opportunities on social media and even conduct background research on job candidates.

Equal Opportunity Employment Issues

If you are using social media for recruiting, that gives you instant access to the public information on their social media account. This can give you a bigger picture as to who the applicant is, and who they might be as an employee. The problem is that once you have viewed their social media profile, you are now aware of their “protected characteristics,” since these are usually part of an online profile. These characteristics include their age, sex, religion, disabilities, and sexual orientation; most of these are not always evident in an interview. Having knowledge of these protected characteristics can potentially impact your interview questions and hiring decisions.

Social Media Decisions

Using social media can give you better insights into your job candidates, and show you things that do not violate EEO, and you can use in your decision-making process. For example, if someone’s Facebook is full of racist rants, you can use that when deciding if you want to hire them.

If you find something worrisome, print it out, so if they challenge the decision later, you have evidence of the post. You should consider giving them the chance to respond to worrisome posts before you make your final decision; there is always the chance the profile you are looking at is faked or has been hacked. Social media accounts do get hacked fairly frequently these days.

You can also learn valuable things from their social media, like their regular volunteer work in a related field to what they are applying for, or thoughtful tweets that show their knowledge in the field they are applying for. Even if you find something helpful on their account, print it out as well so there is full documentation of what was used in your hiring decision.

These are things that reflect the applicant’s decision making and can reflect on their character. If you find social media posts full of ignorance or racism, or posts that show their experience in the field, you can treat them as if you learned of these things during the job interview. Those types of things are not protected by EEO, so you should be safe. If you ever feel unsure, consult a lawyer, they can help you determine if including those posts in your decision is legal.

Legal Complications

It is a good idea to have someone in HR who is not interviewing the candidate be the one to review their social media accounts, since they are better informed about what can and cannot be used to make the hiring decisions. This will also keep you, the interviewer, impartial to the candidate when you interview them.

Make sure you remain consistent in checking social media accounts. If you decide to screen applicants, you must screen all of them or none of them, unless an applicant does not have a social media profile; that is rare, but it does happen. Inform job candidates that you will be reviewing their public social media accounts.

Ignore things others post about your candidates. They cannot control what the people on their friends list tag them in or what they say in comments on posts. The people on their friends list should have no influence on your social media screening.