Why You Should Be Careful When Using Facebook to Screen Candidates

A resume comes across your desk that piques your interest. You want to find out as much as possible about the candidate as quickly as you can, so you Google the person’s name and come across their Facebook profile. You click on the profile and start reading obnoxious comments posted by the candidate’s friends about last weekend’s drunken escapades. You promptly throw the resume in the trash.

If this has happened to you, you’re not alone.

As a leading recruitment firm in Houston, TX, we know that many employers use social networking sites as a tool for screening candidates. In fact, according to one recent study, nearly half (45%) of all employers questioned in the study use social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, My Space, LinkedIn) to find out more about job candidates. What’s more is that a majority (35%) of those employers said they had rejected candidates because of the information they discovered on those sites, such as inappropriate pictures, comments about drug and/or alcohol abuse, or instances where someone bad-mouthed their former employer.

While using social networking sites can seem like an ideal way to weed out a potential bad hire (it’s fast, free, and easy), there are a couple of major pitfalls.

#1 – Information Can Be Easily Misunderstood

First of all, profiles on social networking sites can, many times, contain inaccurate information, or information that is easily misunderstood or taken out of context. For instance, individuals have little control over the comments their friends post on their Facebook walls.

#2 – Information Can Bias Your Hiring Decision

In addition, much of the information you might obtain from a person’s account cannot legally be used when making a hiring decision. This includes information such as a person’s religion, age, marital status, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, and disability. Even if a person has their profile set to “private,” there is still some limited information available to the general public.

And if there is ever an issue that comes up about your decision not to hire a certain candidate, you cannot assume your search of social networking sites will remain secret. In fact, electronic discovery, which can include records of social networking site searches, is sought in many discrimination lawsuits.

So how can you leverage the value of social networking sites, without exposing your business to potential liability?

Develop clear rules about using social networking sites in your hiring process. For instance, make sure that the person doing the screening – and reviewing a candidate’s profile on a social networking site – is not the person who will make the ultimate hiring decision. Information such as age and race can then be filtered out before it reaches the decision maker.

In addition, always err on the side of caution. While the law is still evolving regarding using social networking sites to screen prospective employees, the potential risks far outweigh the potential benefits.

And if you need help sourcing and screening high quality candidates for your direct hire positions, please contact Murray Resources. As a leading recruitment firm in Houston, TX, we can give you access to better talent for your job openings – and reduce your risk of a bad hire.