It has become commonplace for employers to review the social media presence of candidates before hire. A look at a candidate’s Facebook profile, Twitter or LinkedIn is a different kind of background check. How a candidate presents themselves on social media can tell an employer a lot about them, but potentially get employer into hot water. Employers might also be disconcerted by a lack of social media presence from a candidate.
While social media can be an important and useful recruitment tool, employers need to use it with some caution. A Facebook account, even one with decent privacy settings, might tell an employer if the candidate is a parent, if they like to party, where they have gone on vacation, how they lean politically, what concert they went to last week and so on. While some of this information may be harmless, some of it could run an employer into human rights issues. While it is impermissible to ask a candidate if they have children in a job interview, if their Instagram is all bump and baby pictures that is information an employer will have. Decisions about whether to hire cannot, under human rights legislation, be made based upon prohibited grounds such as family status, age, religion or other protected characteristics which may be evident from a candidate’s social media presence.
On the other hand, a social media check may provide an employer with valuable information about a candidate’s level of tech savvy or about their professional judgment. It may be reasonable to decide that a candidate is not an appropriate spokesperson for your daycare if they are constantly tweeting obscenities. In order to avoid potential human rights issues, employers who do want to conduct social media checks should have the check performed by someone other than the hiring manager. The individual who conducts the review can provide the hiring manager with any pertinent information and keep information that touches on protected grounds to themselves.
What if an applicant has no online presence? Although it may sound strange, there remain a significant number of adults who do not have a social media presence. For example, only around 25% of American adults use Twitter. A similarly small number use LinkedIn. And, though it is the most popular, I’m sure we all know a few people who have deleted their Facebook. A 2018 study found that 68% of American adults were Facebook users.
What might it say about a candidate who has no social media presence? While it may suggest that they may not be appropriate for roles that require high levels of social media savvy, it also may not. It is likely unreasonable to make any sort of assumption about a candidate based on a lack of social media presence.
Social media is now a part of our lives, including our work lives. While it can be an important tool, employers need to use their good judgment and use it wisely.