Looking At Your Applicants On Facebook: 3 Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Mistakes Your Hiring Managers Could Be Making

Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes


Facebook is a great tool. You can learn so much about someone, and who doesn’t love to “Facebook creep” on people, right? Except you might not want your hiring manager doing so, because they could be breaking some serious employment rules.

In June of 2011, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the use of formal social media background checks to be used for employment purposes. Along with this decision, the FTC also stipulated that the use of these social media background checks must comply with the already existing Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This means that the process must be treated the exact same as a criminal record background check when using a third-party screening vendor.

The truth is that most employers won’t use a third-party to run a social media background check on their applicants. Instead most social media searches are done behind the scenes by the person responsible for hiring the applicant. The problem is that these (unofficial) social media searches can open organizations up to a lot of risk.

Discrimination Issues

Using Facebook as a screening tool can lead to major discrimination issues. How do you un-ring the bell once you see protected class information such as race, religion or political affiliation? All of this information is readily available on an applicant’s Facebook profile and can be a challenge for hiring managers to “un-see” once the protected class information is known. This isn’t even including the issue of subconscious bias.

If a potential employee were to become aware that their Facebook profile was viewed during the hiring process and felt that they were unfairly treated your hiring manager and company could be in serious trouble.

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Inaccurate Information

When using Facebook, you can learn so much about someone. Lets say you have a potential new hire named “John Smith.” By looking at John’s Facebook you can find out where he lives, where he works, his age, political beliefs, and even who he wanted to win the World Series. Except, what if this isn’t the John Smith you’re considering to hire?

Inaccurate information is a huge risk you take when digging through Facebook for an applicant’s information. If your hiring managers are looking at applicants on Facebook, they could be making hiring decisions based off of incorrect and inaccurate information for the candidate that you’re considering to hire.

Knowing More Than You Should

The best thing about using Facebook as a hiring tool is clearly all of the information it provides you. But that’s also the worst thing. Facebook gives you access to information that you wouldn’t normally be able to see using traditional screening tools. While all of this extra information could be helpful, it’s important to understand that the persona displayed on the applicant’s Facebook page may not be a good reflection of that applicant’s character. The effect of creating an idealized version of yourself on social media is well documented. This begs the question – if you’re using social media to assess a cultural fit of the applicant, can the persona you see on Facebook even be used in confidence?

It may seem like there are benefits using Facebook as a hiring tool, but the reward may not out-weigh the risk. The main issue is that protected information can’t be unseen. If a potential employee were to be denied a job after the hiring manager saw sensitive information on a Facebook profile, it would be a hard time refuting a discrimination claim regardless of whether or not that information impacted the hiring decision.

Closing Thoughts

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