The Hidden Risks of Social Media for Recruiting & HR Managers
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The Hidden Risks of Social Media for Recruiting & HR Managers

The Hidden Risks of Social Media for Recruiting & HR Managers

Social media has forever changed the rules in the job marketplace. The amazing amount of information that is so quickly accessible provides a tempting opportunity to be a fly on the wall of an applicant's personal life. Recruiters need to exercise caution and tread carefully. There are a plethora of social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn that provide instant and often personal information about a candidate.

There are risks associated with social media and if employers are not careful, they can open a Pandora's box of litigation possibilities. Social networking profiles reveal private information such as age, race, political affiliation, gender, disability and religious affiliation. This type of information is usually interspersed throughout a candidate's personal profile.

There are a few disturbing scenarios that can occur when an employer does a social media search on a potential candidate. Consider the following: a recruiter does an internet search and finds the candidates picture and religious and political affiliation and uses this information to weed out that particular candidate, or an internet search reveals a candidate in full regalia at a gay pride festival. What does the recruiter do with such personal information that would have never revealed itself in a traditional resume?

Using online information skates a thin line between invasion of privacy and an employer learning as much as possible about a potential employee. Employers must decide if the benefits of researching candidates on social media outweigh the risks. It is critical that employers utilize legal counsel and develop written policies to determine the best protocol for using social media in recruiting efforts. The policy must clearly define the types of position that would warrant utilizing social media and specific guidelines for the type of information the employer hopes to find by using social media. A comprehensive written policy will go a long way in helping to mitigate risks that arise from social media searches.

Working closely with legal counsel can go a long way in protecting a company from the potential of a case of disparate treatment and its cousin disparate impact, which can occur unintentionally when using social media for recruiting. Human Resources experts argue that using social media can open the door to disparate treatment (an intent to discriminate) or Disparate Impact, when using social media sites that do not reflect the demographics of the total population.

Social media is one of the best ways to recruit passive candidates and is an essential resource in engaging the best candidates in the marketplace. Social media will continue to evolve and recruiters must use common sense, stay compliant with EEO practices and maintain records to avoid being on the losing end of a discrimination lawsuit.

 Myron Curry is the president and founder of Business Training Media, a leading provider of business management training material for corporate training and development, workplace safety, human resources and professional development.

Published: November 27th, 2018

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