The Role of Social Media in Recruiting Employees

With the age of social media having arrived and planning a lengthy stay, more and more employers are using the platform to screen potential hires. As a result, are there any legal ramifications to doing such?

It is a given in today’s technologically driven world that people are going to place comments and photos on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. without always thinking before they post.

In turn, employers are turning more to social networking sites to recruit, scouring through online resumes and other information in hopes of finding the right employee/s. So, are there legal land mines awaiting employers by using such sites?


Social Media and Legalities

As most employers know (for those who don’t, listen up), the Federal Equal Employment Laws ban employment discrimination against those qualified candidates with disabilities. It is also against the law to discriminate against individuals due to their age, sex, race, national origin and religion.

While employers cannot discriminate against potential hires in the above-mentioned areas, they can compile quite a resume of their own just by gathering social media information that an individual has posted. This can include Bob’s drunken foray at a bachelor party or Jill’s racy expose shoot with a local photographer that found its way onto the Internet.

The question then becomes, is it legal for employers to take social media information about a potential candidate and bring it into the decision making process?

For example, a very qualified woman applies for a reporter position with your television station. You like what you see in her resume, and then discover on her Facebook profile that she is 45 years old.

As many of us know, many of the reporters and anchors seen on television are hired in their 20s and even early 30s, due to how they come across on the screen. This 45-year-old likely has a wealth of experience, but you feel she won’t connect with younger viewers due to her age. Do you automatically skip her in the resume pile and look for someone younger?

The bottom line is you could be sued for age discrimination if word gets out you didn’t hire her after learning of her age, leaving you to come up with a better reason as to why a woman with such qualifications was passed over for a much younger woman recently out of college.

While you shouldn’t discount social media as a tool to assist you in the hiring process, be sure that an image or a comment by a prospective employee does not sway you one way or the other.


Social Media Needs to be Kept in Context

While the above-mentioned scenario may come up as you look to hire, it is important to get as much information on a potential hire as possible, provided it is used in a fair manner.

With millions and millions of people using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media tools to be engaged online, it behooves employers to see if any actions on such sites by potential hires would dissuade you from hiring them in the first place.

If you use one or more of the social media sites to gather information on a prospect, be sure to keep the information in context. Someone holding a beer in a photo at a party is not against the law, but someone baring their breasts in such a manner may leave you with some questions, especially as to what kind of employee they might be when it comes to decision making issues.

The bottom line is social media can assist the employer in their decision making process, but by no means should it be made the predominant one.

Dave Thomas writes extensively for, an online resource destination for businesses of all sizes to research, find, and compare the products and services they need to run their businesses.

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