reviewing candidates’ social media
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This is Part 1 of our two-part series in social media in hiring. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week! 

Today, there are more users on social media than ever before. Scores of people everywhere in the world are posting personal information online. This information is being consumed by billions of people on a daily basis, some for more personal reasons, others less so. Countless employers have, for instance, rapidly shifted to incorporating the extra step of reviewing potential candidates’ social media activity into the hiring processes. Considering the relative novelty of social media technology, employers should brace themselves for increasing litigation around this in relation to employment issues in the years to come. 

Should employers be cautious of reviewing a candidate’s social media accounts during the hiring process?

Employers should tread carefully if they choose to use social media to vet potential new hires. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, everyone has a right to equal treatment in employment regardless of characteristics such as race, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, or marital status. Employment includes the hiring process. In reviewing a candidate’s social media accounts, an employer could come to discover some of these personal characteristics, which could contribute to a hiring decision that is both biased and a potential violation of the Human Rights Code.

An employer should have valid, objective and consistent evaluation criteria when selecting potential employees. This can be tricky if employers screen candidates using their social media presence. For example, candidate A may not be on any social media, candidate B could be active on many platforms, all of which have been made publicly accessible, and candidate C could have a social media account on one platform, but with limited publicly available information. Research has found that some social media platforms are more likely to be used by individuals in a particular gender or age group. Including social media, whether formally or informally, as part of the talent acquisition process could lead to inconsistency in candidate profiles. 

Overall, social media rarely paints a comprehensive picture of a potential employee. From a hiring perspective, an employer may run the risk of making a decision disproportionately based on a candidate’s social media accounts, rather than taking in all that the potential employee has to offer. The content of a potential employee’s social media accounts could also easily be taken out of context and misunderstood. 

From a practical point of view, combing through candidates’ social media accounts could be fairly time-consuming, something which may not be feasible for employers with smaller human resources departments or fewer people to fully carry out this process.

A practical way for employers to help lessen the risks around social media in recruitment is to separate the job of reviewing social media posts from the hiring decision-maker, ideally two different people.

Be sure to check the blog next week for Part 2 where we will discuss the risks of hiring bias and social media in more detail.

If you have questions about making appropriate hiring decisions, get in touch for a consultation.