Social Media Guidelines for Applicant Screening

One of the most important intersections between social media and employment is in the hiring process. It is here where there are great potential risks and rewards.

While social media is an important recruitment tool, not every job seeker uses social media. This raises a concern about potential adverse impact on those who are economically less advantaged, which may correlate with certain racial and ethnic groups.

When it comes to screening job applicants there are concerns and legal risks about what protected class characteristic might be revealed when perusing a candidate’s’ social media profile. For example, you might learn from a candidate’s picture their race, approximate age, and more. People also commonly post personal information such as medical or family problems and religious affiliations.

We recognize there can be valuable information on a candidate’s social media pages that we lawfully can consider. Below are guidelines on how to use social media for screening applicants.

  1. After campus interviews. Check social media profiles after an applicant has been interviewed, when his or her membership in protected groups is likely already known.
  2. Have HR do it, when possible. It is best if someone in HR is conducting the screening, rather than the person with hiring authority.  HR professionals are well versed is what can and cannot consider. Otherwise, HR will work with the search chair or hiring manager to identify the appropriate designee.
  3. Never ask for passwords. Only consider content that is public.
  4. Be consistent. Don’t look at only one applicant’s social media profiles.
  5. Consider the source. Focus on the candidate’s own posts or tweets, not on what others have said about him or her.
  6. Verify. We will want to give the candidate a chance to respond to findings of worrisome social media content. Erroneous information, identical names, and fake social media accounts are out there.
  7. Document decisions. Print out the page containing social media content on which you base any hiring decision and record any reason for rejection that is job-related, such as bad judgment. This protects the institution if the damaging content has been deleted by the time a decision is challenged.

Don’t hesitate to contact human resources with any additional questions.