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Use of Social Media in the Recruiting and Hiring Process

Social media is ubiquitous in today’s world. Chances are, your company has used it in recruiting or candidate screening at one time or another, whether by checking out a candidate’s LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profile, or by using social media to post a job listing. These methods can help employers access qualified candidates and can provide useful information about applicants. For example, you might learn about a candidate’s work experience, communication skills, volunteer work, or professional passions. You might also discover negative information about the applicant. For instance, you might learn about illegal activities, threats of violence, or disparagement of past employers.

But using social media in recruiting and hiring is not without risk. By reviewing a candidate’s online postings, you may find information that cannot legally be considered in the hiring process. For example, you may learn a candidate’s race, ethnicity, disability, marital status, age or religion. Once you know such information, you are vulnerable to being accused of using it in your hiring decisions.

While these risks are very real, an employer who is careful and conscientious in its use of social media may be able to reduce them. One way to diminish risk is to check social media only after a candidate has been interviewed, rather than using it as a way to screen candidates sight-unseen. Another way is to have someone in the company who is not involved in hiring decisions be in charge of viewing social media content of job candidates and filtering out any information about protected characteristics (e.g., race, age, disability, etc.) before sending other information on to HR or the hiring manager. Also, an employer should never ask an applicant for his password or username information, or try to “friend” him or otherwise join his social network. A number of states have statutes prohibiting this conduct, and refraining from it is best practice in all states.

There is no foolproof method for removing all risk from the use of social media in the hiring process. Whether the benefits of using it may outweigh the risks, and how to minimize that risk, will likely depend on the circumstances. Feel free to contact PMP if you would like to speak to an HR consultant or staff attorney about how best to navigate these waters successfully.  Sign up for our educational workshop, Risk and Reward: The Dangers of Social Media in the Workplace on Wednesday, December 14, 2016.

Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, Inc. is here to answer any questions you have regarding use of social media in the workplace. Please keep in mind that in addition to our staff of seasoned HR consultants, we also have a staff of experienced employment lawyers on hand to address any questions you may have regarding legal compliance. Contact us at 800-921-2195 or 516-921-3400. You can also e-mail us at


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