How to use social media as a hiring tool

In recent years, many employers have begun using candidates' social media accounts to gain better insights into whom they are interviewing. While there are benefits to using this information in the hiring process, keep the following caveats in mind:

1. To avoid letting your decisions be influenced by information considered 'Protected Class,' such as race, age, marital status, etc., don't screen applicants' social media sites until after you've met them in person, Allyson Willoughby, general counsel and senior vice president of people at career website Glassdoor, told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

To be even safer, have someone other than the decision maker in the hiring process conduct the online screening, added Jason Morris, president and COO of Cleveland-based EmployeeScreenIQ.

2. Determine upfront what job-specific screening information you are looking for online, such as hate speech, violent tendencies or drug use that would have a direct bearing on the candidate's potential job performance, advised SHRM.

3. Be mindful that once you access social media profiles, you could be sued for negligent hiring if you overlook signs predicting bad behavior by an employee. However, legal experts told SHRM they haven't seen any significant cases of this type against employers to date.

4. Refrain from requesting candidates' passwords. While some employers have demanded this information in the past, doing so is "a terrible practice," Eric Meyer, a partner in the labor and law practice of Dilworth Paxson in Philadelphia, told SHRM. In an interview with Forbes, Chirag Nangia, CEO of Reppify, a San Francisco-based business that helps companies use social media in recruiting, agreed that this should be the exception rather than the rule.

"While there will be instances of Facebook password requests of candidates by potential employers so they can examine their profiles for objectionable content, these will likely remain edge cases," Nangia said. "Most employers will pursue intelligent policies that effectively leverage relevant information from social media, such as project work on an open-source engineering site, to select the top qualified candidates."

To learn more:
- read the SHRM post
- see the post from Forbes

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