It’s a whole new world of recruiting with the advent of so many social media sites. People lay out their personal and professional lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and every day new sites are popping up. While it is tempting to research a potential job candidate’s social media presence, it’s not as easy as it looks. Legal protections extend to all methods of background checks, so a clear procedure for your human resources staff and management is essential to avoid legal difficulties.
Legislation in the United States has created strict laws on how employers collect information about potential employees. Written permission is necessary from the individual to collect personal information on financial, credit, and criminal history. Further, a multitude of anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from asking about race, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and child-rearing status. Just because you discovered information without a direct question does not mean you can use it in the hiring decision.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when adding social media to your recruiting process.
Consider adding social media data collection to your written authorization forms for background checks. While you still will have to have procedures to avoid discrimination issues, that social media is included in the authorization forms will at a minimum give you some protection in areas that are permissible.
Confirming, for example, on LinkedIn that a person attended the school they list in their resume is not discrimination. Neither is discovering in a healthcare recruiting situation that a nurse required to lift patients has severe physical limitations that will not allow them to do the job at hand. However, finding out a female candidate is pregnant is not permissible information in making a hiring decision.
A company’s human resources staff and all managers must be clear on policies and procedures for collecting information on new recruits. If an employee violates laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the company is still liable for any damages. Training is key if a company’s employees are to stay within the law for fair hiring practices.
Outsource Background Checks
Many services provide background checks, which takes your internal staff out of the loop and ensures they do not see unlawful information. A service can include social media and provide only feedback with legal data, shielding you from anything that could be construed as discriminatory.
You might also appoint someone on your staff to serve this function, although it is usually cleaner to use an outside firm with no internal ties to the company. The added expense is usually far less than an expensive lawsuit down the road.
Record Information from Review Process
Complete records for the entire review process will ensure you have the necessary documentation should a hiring decision ever be brought into question. Be sure all background check information you’ve acquired is documented and accurate.
With some careful planning and thoughtful execution, social media will not trip up your company when trying to find the best candidates for a position while still staying within the legal framework meant to protect individual rights.
Sarah Boisvert is an author who specializes in business topics including marketing, sales and finance. She also writes on manufacturing topics such as 3D Printing.