4 tips on researching job candidates on social media

Apr 20, 2015 | Article

There are a number of considerations that many hiring managers overlook when viewing social profiles - namely, the legality of the process.

Studies estimate that around 70 percent of employers use social media sites to screen job candidates. It's proven to be a useful way to discover information about job seekers that they may not divulge in interviews, and it's safe to assume more companies will continue to make social media sweeps part of their hiring processes.

However, there are a number of considerations that many hiring managers overlook when viewing social profiles, especially in regards to the legality of the process. Here are four things to keep in mind when researching candidates on social media.

"Wait until after interviews to review social profiles."

1. Meet the candidates first
Legal experts recommend that employers wait until after the first interview to look at candidates' social profiles. After all, the practice is essentially a type of unofficial background check, so it's better if you have a firsthand idea of the individual who you're researching. This can also help protect employers from being accused of making adverse hiring decision based solely on information gathered from social platforms.

2. Follow set guidelines
It's also a best practice to establish company-wide guidelines for evaluating social profiles of potential employees. Human resources should draw up policies for hiring managers, including who will complete the search, when it should be done, what sites will be viewed and what type of information should be gathered. Consistency is key when it comes to avoiding legal issues, so managers should be sure to follow the same procedures for each candidate they interview.

3. Know the legal limits
Just as there are limitations to what questions interviewers can ask in interviews, there are certain pieces of information that are off-limits while reviewing social profiles. According to guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are certain protected characteristics that cannot be taken into consideration during hiring decisions. These include things like race, age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation or disability. A good rule of thumb is to only look for information that is related to a candidate's ability to perform the position in question or speaks to his or her professionalism and judgment.

Social media may reveal positive attributes of job seekers.

4. Don't focus solely on negatives
When most employers view social media profiles, they're looking for certain red flags that could rule out a candidate. Some common warning signs include inappropriate photographs, evidence that the individual engages in illegal activities or speaking ill of past employers. While these negative findings can certainly help to rule out job seekers, hiring managers should also keep their eyes open for information on social media that reflects well on candidates.

Applicants who actively volunteer in their communities or are passionate about certain philanthropic causes may post related information to their social accounts. If these interests are in line with the company's culture, it could signal a good match. Similarly, many individuals post about accolades they've received, their hobbies and professional goals on social media sites. These could all signal that the candidate would fit in at and excel within the company.

This content brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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