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Facebook, ethics and modern recruitment - The thorny issue of Social Media Screening

Posted: 17 February 2016

Social media is a staple of modern recruitment in a million and one ways. From attraction and applications to interviewing and onboarding, it's muscled its way in and isn't going nowhere. Social media has always been the doubled edged sword, helping spread the word with one hand and immortalise negative vibes with the other. And now social media is offering up another opportunity meets potential issue...

There’s so many ethical grey areas and legal umming and arring when it comes to using the likes of Facebook to screen candidates. It’s inspired many companies to create Social Screening policies and has given birth to a new moral discussion around our favourite form of media. So, what does this mean? Can you confidently use social media to screen candidates? We’re tackling a few of the biggies here.

What’s all the fuss about? - Is social screening unethical?

The truth is there’s no simple answer. Some camps believe that personal social profiles like Facebook are just that, personal, and so shouldn’t be used to make hiring decisions. While others believe that if a Facebook profile is public its fair game. In short, it’s a tricky topic.

Let’s face it, we’ve all used LinkedIn to double check a CV so is this different because LinkedIn is professional and Facebook is personal? Again, there’s no right answer. One thing is for sure however and it’s that the way forward is respect and rules.

Creating a social media screening policy.

This is new turf and, generally speaking, social screening policies are new kids on the block with 57% of companies having no social screening policy in place. There’s a few guidelines and best practice tips you can weave into a policy, but there’s always room to set your own social standards.

  • Create a social screening body within the HR department.

This is a way of keeping your social screening activities based in one area and overseen by a dedicated workforce. It helps avoid any claims of company-wide screening, and ensures that best practice has the greatest chance to thrive. If there’s a solid system in place it’s easier to protect yourself against any unethical claims.

  • Establish what platforms you’ll use to screen candidates.

It’s easier to narrow down the platforms you’ll screen via and create a mini code of screening conduct for each. The most commonly used networks for screening are Facebook and LinkedIn so try and commit to defining and sticking to these platforms alone. Outline exactly how to screen on these networks, detailing what the big dos and don’ts are.

  • Never base decisions on personal status or details.

Age, gender, political beliefs, religion and sexual orientation are all completely off the table. Never base a hiring decision off this info.

  • Document all material you screened socially with a breakdown of how it went towards your hiring decision.

This is a failsafe and a way of ensuring you’re acting ethically, as well as protecting yourself. For instance, if a candidates is found to be offensive on their Facebook, you can use this as a basis to decide against a hire. Be sure to document this decision alongside any material dated and initialed by the HR department.

  • Tell candidates you screen socially.

Honesty is the best policy so tell candidates what networks are used for screening and how this is done. You can’t roll this screening option out for one candidate and not another, use it across the candidate board.

Screening is an integral recruitment process step. It’s where suitability is sussed out and hiring decisions are made. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why social media screening can be somewhat of a thorny issue. Openness, honesty and a written policy are your best tools for combatting any problems that could arise from jumping on the social screening bandwagon. If used ethically and consistently there’s no doubting how valuable and recruitment-changing this screening tool can be.

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