Checking Social Media of Job Applicants

May 3, 2016

You hear and read stories about companies that require job applicants to reveal their social media accounts, including passwords. These companies believe that by viewing an applicant’s social media activity they can get a better handle on his or her ability to be a productive employee.

Honestly, your background screening company shouldn’t have any reason to provide social media checks. The reasons why are very basic, and should make you think about this potentially risky practice.

  1. Many employers now accept job applications online. It can save time, money, and paper. Longstanding federal law does not permit a job application to inquire about sex, race, religion, family, personal habits, etc. But if you check someone’s social media accounts you can learn about all of these things, which legally cannot be used in your hiring process. An applicant who is denied employment and knows that social media was checked could easily claim some type of discrimination because you learned things that you could never ask on an application or during an interview.
  2. With all the sharing of information, such as photos and videos that are routinely uploaded by friends, enemies, and others to social media accounts, how would you decipher what is real and legitimate? Your applicant could be a person who would never use illegal drugs, but someone with a grudge manages to post a photo-shopped pic of your applicant smoking a crack pipe. You deny employment on something that is not real. Can you spell “lawsuit?”

When it comes to checking social media, we suggest that such a decision must be guided by ethical principles, common sense, and your legal counsel.

Contributed by Steven J. Austin of LABORCHEX.

Through the Michigan Chamber partnership with LABORCHEX, members get discounted pricing to employment background screening services. To learn more, please email Kym Lewis or call him at 1-800-880-0366.