August 21, 2023
It seems as though every day, we hear about someone getting fired for a controversial social media post or a brand getting negative publicity for an offensive post by an employee. While many companies have implemented social media policies, they typically do not address internal vetting by hiring managers. Instead, they mainly center on employee social media use during work hours and online discussion of company-related trade secrets. However, these policies often have no actual enforcement mechanism.
Most organizations turn a blind eye to the pervasive ad hoc review of social media for their candidates, and that could put them squarely into legal jeopardy under FTC and EEOC rules. In addition, what if the hiring manager is looking at the wrong profile? There is no recourse for the candidate to remedy this error which could negatively impact their employment prospects. Beyond the legal implications, however, the unofficial vetting of candidates’ social media introduces a patchwork of approaches across the company, if left unchecked, allows for hiring manager’s implicit biases to be used as a basis for employment in the organization.
The following are the top 5 reasons why organizations should consider outsourcing their social media screening, specifically to consumer reporting agencies that follow FCRA guidelines.
If companies review candidate’s social media profiles on an ad hoc basis, this could violate FTC’s Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA). FCRA has been designed to protect both the employer and the candidate when using consumer reports for employment purposes. And there is even some discussion in the industry around whether or not Facebook and Google could be considered a Credit Reporting Agency.
In addition, the employer could be held in violation of EEOC guidelines if the hiring manager is using protected class information seen on social media before making an employment decision for a particular candidate. The employer, in this case, could be held liable and put their company in a difficult situation of trying to prove this didn’t taint the decision-making process.
As companies move to implement Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs across their organizations, ad hoc reviews of candidate’s social media across a geographically dispersed company introduce a key area where implicit biases can undermine these initiatives. By outsourcing this to a third-party provider, the organization can eliminate any possibility of discrimination in the decisions being made for whom to employ.
One of the main benefits of using a third-party provider is that they have processes to ensure that the social media profiles being reviewed belong to the candidate. When employers perform their own social media inquiries, they sometimes struggle to find information on the “right person,” mainly when the candidate’s name is common. This problem is embarrassing for the company and could become a basis for a lawsuit by the candidate.
If a hiring manager is trying to decide who to hire between two or more equally qualified candidates, they often turn to social media to help in their decision-making. This is where subjectivity is most likely to enter into the equation. By outsourcing this process, the employer can ensure an objective review is applied to all candidates.
Let’s face it, scrolling through a candidate’s social media timeline is slow and time-consuming. After a few scrolls down, most hiring managers give up. They could be missing earlier posts from the candidate that might represent racist remarks or other disqualifying statements. By outsourcing this process, the employer gets a more thorough review and is consistent across all hiring divisions within the organization.
In summary, it’s time for organizations to update their social media policies to eliminate the casual review of candidates’ social media posts and choose a qualified company to outsource this critical function. The small upfront investment in proper social media vetting will far outweigh the risks of doing it in-house via an inconsistent and often biased approach. Social media screening can provide tremendous insight into your candidates and help your organization build the right culture if used correctly.