To Tweet or Not to Tweet - Should Human Resources use Social Media during the Hiring Process?
by Mary Scala, VP Human Resources - Scott Valley Bank

Ask any HR (Human Resources) professional in California what they think about using Social Media websites to perform background checks of qualified candidates and they’ll probably run out of the room screaming. As the watchdog of employment practices, HR tends to be a bit conservative when it comes to TMI (too much information). We’ve been duly trained that ignorance truly is bliss and if you “see no evil and hear no evil”, well then, you have no risk.  This mindset couldn’t be further from the truth. When selecting employees to represent your company and take care of your clients, you should see potential employees as they really are.

Nothing describes the real person like their Facebook Page, Twitter Account, or LinkedIn Profile. You can glean more information from these personal web sites than you can by contacting everyone who’s ever known them. However, you need to do it right.

First, you need a policy. You should have your legal counsel assist in this process. Your policy should, however, define what information you’re looking for. Someone’s religious affiliation is irrelevant, however if they’re ranting about their current employer, slandering a particular ethnic group, or disclosing confidential information regarding their current company, I’d think twice before tendering an offer letter.  Also, posts to someone’s “wall” by one of their “friends” shouldn’t be considered.

Accessing a candidate’s personal site must also be controlled. You need a notice and consent form that allows you to perform a background check and includes the fact that you’ll be checking their social media site(s). You should never check a candidate’s social media site without them knowing and giving you access. Signing into an applicant’s social media site as someone other than yourself can land you in court. 

Access should be restricted to someone in the HR department representing your company. If the hiring manager doesn’t see protected information, the risk of discrimination is virtually eliminated. Not everything posted is protected under Title VII, FEHA, ADA, GINA, etc., and HR is the best qualified to decide what is and isn’t protected information.

HR should document all posted information that your policy defines as relevant, both good and not so good.  That information should then be shared with the hiring manager to assist them in making their decision. If information is found that concerns you and may prevent you from hiring an applicant, disclose this information to the candidate and give them an opportunity to explain. Also, make sure any adverse employment action complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

These are just some ideas on how you can dive into cyberspace safely when checking your applicants.  Your legal counsel should always be included when writing policies and establishing procedures.

View Scott Valley Bank - The Vault - August 2011