Using Facebook to Pre-Screen Job Applicants: Risky, Rewarding or Both?
Employers are increasingly turning to Facebook and other social-networking sites to pre-screen new hires. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2009 found that 45 percent of employers were looking at applicants’ social-networking pages during the hiring process. The percentage of employers using social media sites for screening is almost certainly even higher in 2012.
The practice has both benefits and risks. On the positive side, a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology backs up employers’ intuition that social-networking sites contain useful information for making hiring decisions. The researchers asked HR professionals to rate the Facebook profiles of college students to predict how well the students would fare as employees. Six months later, the researchers followed up by contacting the current employers of the people whose profiles had been rated. They found a strong correlation between the predictions made by the Facebook raters and the actual performances as rated by the employers.
The risks involve the potential for unlawful discrimination and for invasions of privacy. Facebook profiles usually contain a wealth of information that employers are prohibited, under federal, state and local laws, from using in discriminatory ways. Photos and posts can reveal race, gender, age, disability and national origin, as well as other traits, such as sexual orientation, that are protected in some jurisdictions. The equal-opportunity laws prohibit not only conscious discrimination, but also unconscious bias, so even employers who believe they are not discriminating may be vulnerable to discrimination claims.
Privacy concerns are starkest when applicants restrict access to their Facebook profiles and employers use subterfuge to get in. But even when Facebook profiles are open to the public, privacy concerns remain. Some states prohibit using “off-duty” behavior as a factor in employment decisions, and applicants themselves are likely to chafe at the screening. A 2007 study conducted by Littler Mendelson and the Ponemon Institute found that three-quarters of workers 30 and younger thought that using their social-networking profiles for employment screening was an invasion of their privacy.
WeComply’s training courses on conducting interviews and on preventing discrimination and harassment give employees involved in the hiring process the information they need to navigate the process without engaging in unlawful discrimination.Categories: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
Tags: Interview Discrimination, Preventing Discrimination and Harassment, Social Media