Social media is becoming a powerful tool that employers increasingly use as part of their background checks on candidates for employment. Networking websites often contain more information about a job applicant than is typically provided on a resume or job application. However, websites can also disclose information that shouldn’t be part of an employment decision. As online employment screening becomes more popular, employers can expect new legal and regulatory requirements to catch up with the use of social media background checking.
Candidate privacy violations, use of inaccurate online data and, potentially, inadvertent (or intentional) discrimination based on information from social media are all concerns for employers. Employers must be especially careful not to infringe on the rights of categories (e.g. race; sex; religion) of individuals protected under EEOC guidance. An equally pressing issue, it seems, is making sure the information obtained from social media relates to the actual candidate on whom the background check is being performed. There’s obviously more than one “John Smith” out there, but even the most unusual names could be duplicated somewhere!
The central point is that information gleaned from social media sites is only one part of the candidate picture for employers. That’s why traditional background and reference checking is a better approach to screening applicants for employment. If, however, social media is to be used, it’s probably better to have third-party reference checking professionals perform the screening so that only appropriate information is reported to the prospective employer.
Using a third party will help ensure the best combination of information—from traditional background and reference checking as well as social media details—is collected. This approach will in turn help ensure that the best possible hiring decisions are made.