Using Social Networking Sites In employment Screening Decisions


According to Facebook official records, many organizational personnel are already subscribers – for example, 30,000 employees from Microsoft, 33,000 employees from IBM, and 20,000 employees from Accenture.

Research by the Pew Internet And American Life project indicates about 70% of all Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 have posted profiles on an online social network. Use of these web sites by older individuals continues to grow also.

More and more employers are tempted to use social networking sites like MySpace, Twitter, FaceBook etc as part of the employment screening process.

One can not help but be amazed at the poor judgment exercised by people in posting pictures and information about themselves that can be viewed negatively by many people that may make important decisions regarding their future.

I am reminded of a commentary by a business school instructor. When he advised his students that many prospective employers would not approve of their tattoos, nose rings and other visible body modifications, the inevitable response was “That’s not fair”. Maybe not, but it is nonetheless true.

After all, prospective employers are looking for indications of the type of judgment an employee would exercise.

In a sense, it is an individuals way of “Self Branding” themselves.

But here’s the rub for human resources professionals.

Just searching Google or other search engines will often bring up a reference to an individuals name. Of course, the information may be entirely false.

What about information posted by an ex-spouse or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend that is exaggerated at the very least if not an outright lie?

Clearly, use of information discovered through these channels is not without risk and should be dealt with very carefully if used at all.

Consider the following issues that arise when using information obtained from these web sites:

What if legally prohibited information is disclosed?

Often included in these social networking pages is information regarding religion, sexual orientation, ethnic and birth information that could never be included on a compliant job application.

Photographs of the individual that are often a part of these personal web sites may reveal information about disabilities that would never be permitted under the ADA and other Federal and state employment laws.

Moreover, there is often no way for an applicant to even defend themselves regarding such information and no mechanism exists to correct information that is wrong.

Using social networking sites can sometimes identify a good candidate that is just what the recruiter or Human Resources manager is looking for, but the use of these sites for employment screening may not be a practice you would want to explain or defend in a courtroom setting.

Most of these issues have not been addressed by the courts yet. If use of these sites is a part of your recruiting and hiring process, perhaps after consulting with your HR consultant or legal counsel, at the very least your employment screening release should specifically refer to the possible use of these sites.

Guide to Using Social Networking Sites In employment Decisions
According to an article in the Jan 2009 background investigator magazine

Many Job Prospects are Torpedoed By Information they have posted on Social Networking Sites

Thirty-four percent of hiring managers who admit that they have screened job candidates via social networking profiles say that they found content that caused them to dismiss a candidate from consideration, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com.

By contrast, 24 percent of hiring managers who researched job candidates via social networking sites said they found content that helped to solidify their decision to hire the candidate.

Among respondents who reported finding content on social networking sites that caused them to dismiss a candidate from consideration, the most frequently cited pieces of negative information found include:

Candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs (41 percent)
Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information (40 percent)
Candidate had poor communication skills (29 percent)
Candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee (28 percent)
Candidate lied about qualifications (27 percent)
Candidate used discriminatory remarks related to race, gender, religion, etc. (22 percent)
Candidate’s screen name was unprofessional (22 percent)
Candidate was linked to criminal behavior (21 percent)
Candidate shared confidential information from previous employers (19 percent)

Among hiring managers who found information that helped to solidify their decision to hire a candidate, the most frequently cited positive pieces of information included:

Candidate’s background supported their qualifications for the job (48 percent)
Candidate had great communication skills (43 percent)
Candidate was a good fit for the company’s culture (40 percent)
Candidate’s site conveyed a professional image (36 percent)
Candidate had great references posted about them by others (31 percent)
Candidate showed a wide range of interests (30 percent)
Candidate received awards and accolades (29 percent)
Candidate’s profile was creative (24 percent)

But, many states have restrictions on the use of an applicant’s social media presence.

Arkansas: Prohibits employers from suggesting that an employee should disclose his or her social media username and password, add the employer as a social media contact, or change his or her social media privacy settings (2013).

California: Prohibits employers from requiring or requesting employees or applicants to disclose their username or password for their social media account, and also prohibits employers from requiring the employee or applicant access his or her social media account in the presence of the employer. However, employers may make a reasonable request that an employee divulge personal social media account information, as is relevant to an investigation of employee misconduct (2012).

Colorado: Prohibits employers from requiring an employee or applicant to disclose a username, password or other means of accessing a personal account, unless an employer is conducting an investigation for legal compliance purposes (2013).

Connecticut: Prohibits an employer from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant to provide it with a username and password or to access a personal online account in the presence of the employer (effective Oct. 1, 2015).

Illinois: Bars employers from demanding employees or applicants reveal their usernames or passwords linked to social networking sites; also prohibits employers from forcing employees to display their social networking profiles for review (2012).

Louisiana: Employers cannot require prospective or current employees to disclose their username, password, or other login information that allows access to or observation of personal social media accounts (2014).

Maryland: Prohibits employers from requesting or requiring the disclosure of usernames or passwords to personal social media accounts, and prohibits employers from taking or threatening to take any disciplinary action against employees or applicants who refuse to disclose such information (2012).

Michigan: Prohibits employers from asking for an employee’s or applicant’s personal Internet account information; does not prohibit an employer from conducting a work-related investigation into activity on an employee’s personal Internet account (2012).

Montana: Prohibits an employer from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant to disclose a username or password, access social media in the presence of the employer, or divulge information in a social media account as a condition of employment (2015).

Nevada: Prohibits employers from requiring access to an employee’s social media account as a condition of employment (2013).

New Hampshire: Employers cannot require prospective or current employees to disclose their username, password or other login information for personal social media accounts (2014).   

New Jersey: Employers cannot require prospective or current employees to disclose their username, password or other means for accessing an electronic account or service (2013).

New Mexico: Employers are prohibited from requesting or requiring that prospective employees provide passwords or access to their social networking accounts (2013).

Oklahoma: Employers cannot require prospective or current employees to disclose their username, password or other login information to personal social media accounts, or require prospective or current employees to log in to personal social media accounts in the presence of the employer (2014).

Oregon: It is unlawful for an employer to request that an employee or applicant disclose his or her username and password or add the employer to his or her list of contacts (2013).

Rhode Island: Employers cannot require or request prospective or current employees to disclose personal social media account information (2014).

Tennessee: Employers cannot require or request prospective or current employees to disclose login information to personal social media accounts, or require prospective or current employees to log in to personal social media accounts in the presence of the employer (2015).

Utah: Generally prohibits employers from requesting information related to personal Internet accounts, including usernames and passwords; allows employers to investigate specific information on the employee’s personal Internet account to ensure compliance with certain laws (2013).

Virginia: Prohibits employers from requiring prospective or current employees to disclose the username and password to their social media accounts (effective July 1, 2015).

Washington: Prohibits employers from requesting personal social networking account login information from employees or applicants; allows employers to require disclosure of employees’ social media content in situations where necessary to comply with a federal law (2013).

Wisconsin: Employers cannot require or request prospective or current employees to disclose login information to personal social media accounts, or require prospective or current employees to allow employers to observe their personal social media account in the employer’s presence (2014).

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Disclaimer
None of the information contained in this web site should be construed as legal advice.
All forms, policies, information and procedures should be reviewed by your legal counsel before being used in any way.

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