In January 2016, We Are Social released a report showing that there are 2.31 billion active social media users in the world. It is not just millennials using social media either. Everyone from parents to grandparents are on Facebook and Twitter these days. At this point it appears that social media is here to stay.
Because social media has grown so rapidly over the past 10 years, it figures that many potential job candidates have accounts or profiles of some sort. Yet one study found that 76% of employers didn't use social media when conducting background checks primarily due to concerns about legal risks. It certainly can be risky for a company to conduct their own social media searches. However, it can be riskier to avoid social media altogether and end up hiring someone potentially dangerous.
The best way to protect your organization is by hiring a third-party such as Social Intelligence to run social media hiring reports on potential candidates for you. Our product is designed to help your company mitigate legal risk. We review content so that your company cannot be accused of discrimination or any violations of freedom.
For example, religion is a federally protected class. A quick search of a candidate's Facebook done by your HR team could reveal that the subject is Mormon. If the candidate did not get the job, he could claim that it was due to religious discrimination. A similar incident happened several years back when a man applied at the University of Kentucky and was not hired. He ended up filing a lawsuit against the university. The man alleged that UK made their hiring decision after the hiring committee circulated an email detailing religious views found on his personal website. The two sides eventually reached a settlement with the university agreeing to pay $125,000 to the rejected candidate.
Our social media hiring reports are FCRA compliant and we follow both Federal and State laws. There are dozens of federally and state protected classes (such as age, gender, and marital status). That information is redacted on our reports to ensure that both the candidates and the organizations are protected. The university in the above scenario might have avoided litigation had they hired an outside source to conduct a social media check on the candidate in question. In that instance, all information pertaining to his religious views would have been hidden from the employer.
Contributing Author: Caitlin Rogers