Social media sites are great tools to use for researching but you want to weigh the potential consequences of using them during the pre-employment screening process.
Social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn can be extremely helpful in the screening process because they can sometimes give you insight into who the candidate really is outside of their professional life.
For example, these sites can answer: Is this person representing themselves in a positive light? Have they posted negative comments on a previous company that they have worked for? Does the information that is on their resume agree with the information on their page, i.e. where they graduated from?
But most importantly, social media sites can give you insight into someone’s character.
“Certainly employers want individuals that display good judgment, especially if they will be managing others,” says Jeff Jones of US Datalink, a Houston-based background screening company.
Employers don’t need to get permission from the applicant to perform this type of search but it is a good idea to use a disclaimer on the background check authorization form to protect yourself. Jared Callahan of ESR Check, a pre-employment screening website based in Northern California, says you can face violations of privacy and free speech if you don’t disclose that your screening methods include checking out social networking sites. Not to mention, your company could also gain a bad reputation among job seekers if you go behind applicants’ backs to look into their social networking sites.
Using these networking sites for your research could expose you to information that could persuade you in your decision. Make sure that when conducting this particular type of research, you don’t let your personal opinions affect the end decision.
“If a company can gain access to candidate’s Facebook page or personal website, they should be cautious to avoid making decisions based on some data that could be exposed such as religious beliefs, political views, ethnicity, sexual orientation, health issues or age,” Jones says.
When conducting Internet searches on a candidate, you need to make sure that your search is producing the right information on a particular candidate and not another person with the same name.
“When searching online, leave out middle names or initials to get a larger return on your search,” Callahan says. “Consider a geographic term in addition to the name, such as ‘Roger Feinstein, Los Angeles,’ or ‘Arianna Vasquez, New Hampshire.
’”Social media sites have come a long way from posting pictures of a recent weekend getaway or getting back in touch with an old college buddy. But when it comes to researching candidates, be judicious in how you use them.