Social media has completely changed how we communicate with each other, from the way we converse to the way we share information. Instead of dialing a number in our phone, we head to Facebook. Social media has become an integral part of society and it is being used widely for both personal and business communications. In particular, it has become a key role in the selection process for HR with 70% of UK employers admitting to using social media to screen candidates throughout the recruitment process. Whilst this practice may be a useful and a quick way to vet candidates, it is also subject to severe limitations and concerns. With GDPR just around the corner, how will this affect the use of social media in the selection process?
By nature, social media profiles contain a large volume of private and sensitive information – information that employers cannot discriminate against. The International Labour Organisation defines employment discrimination as any distinction or exclusion that alters the equality of opportunity or treatment in employment, for reasons of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin.
Since social media holds personal data, any hiring decisions based on this data would be considered discrimination and therefore illegal. Social networks are often a rich source of information that can be very valuable, but how can we use them without endangering the rights of the candidate and, consequently, the reputation of the company?
Inform the candidates
Before you start social media screening candidates, always inform them about it first and provide information on the social media profile/s you plan to look at throughout the process. That way, you can ensure equality across all applicants.
Track the process
If you decide to screen candidate social media profiles, it’s essential that you document the decision process. Keep copies of the profiles that you consider of legitimate interest and need to review, and make sure to take note of the factors that justify the candidate’s elimination from the selection process.
Choose the most appropriate form of social media
One way to narrow down the amount of data you will hold is to only look at profiles in appropriate social networks. For example, LinkedIn is a professional network which holds information about job offers and displays the profiles of potential employees which are both useful for recruiting. On the contrary, Facebook mainly includes information of a candidate’s personal life, including sensitive data about age, religion, sexual preference and political orientation, which could be a real minefield for the employer. Instagram, a platform which is primarily designed to show creativity should also be exempted unless the position requires a creative candidate and even then, it shouldn’t be used to determine a candidate’s portfolio.
Be wary of inconsistent information
One of the great pitfalls of looking at a candidate's social media profiles is that the information presented on each profile differs across each network, meaning that it’s almost impossible to make a reliable comparison between them. Depending on which platforms the person has a profile on and how their privacy is configured, it will be impossible to obtain the same volume and quality of information for all applicants. There is no unified system of value criteria to measure social information, making inequalities in the process inevitable.
TIP: Remember that a company’s presence on social media can also affect the selection process. Candidates will judge employers on the content they decide to post and if deemed unpleasant or inappropriate, it could influence the candidate’s decision on applying for a role at your company. On the contrary, a dynamic, careful and interesting social footprint will help attract the best talent.
Given all the above, at Cornerstone we recommend consulting with your legal team to get around the restrictions of data protection while respecting the privacy of individuals.
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