Long have the days been gone that you can simply be aloof and get fired for it. Now all it takes is a simple button press onto your social media profile, and if there’s just one note or message on your profile the boss doesn’t like, and you can expect to pack your bags and go. You, my friend, are fired.
Social media has changed things dramatically. Sadly, though, the dance between social media and corporate protocol hasn’t gotten much easier with respect to hiring your employees. In a way, it’s gotten a little trickier. Why?
Social Media Is a Great Tool for Finding the Right Employees, But….
You have to handle it right. Plain and simple. The same employment laws apply here, even in cyberspace, so don’t let your basic corporate morals fall by the wayside over the convenience of the Internet, because no matter what, such actions can still get you in trouble.
First off, though, understand that social media has climbed the corporate ladder astronomically, with two in five employers regularly utilizing such sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter just to pre-screen all job candidates as stated in a study back in 2009 by CareerBuilder.com. It was determined even that a sizable 39% of companies actually measure their candidates by the social sites they’re on with nearly 50% of those corporations finding something, either good or bad, affecting their decisions to reject or approve such candidates —
In other words — social media may make or break your chances in finding a job. Just make sure your profiles have suitable content that might not get you in trouble, if you know what I mean.
Whatever the case, as already mentioned, the law still applies here. No employer can reject a candidate based on….
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital Status
The slight problem with this is the fact that any candidate can probably accuse you of such a thing solely based on the fact that you’re essentially ‘spying’ on the social media front.
The whole idea of Internet searches and looking at the posts, pictures and everything else can even be seen as an invasion of privacy, so the line tread on this can be very shady. There are ways to handle social media, though, effectively, and here’s how….
You Need an Assistant to Do the Research for You
Call it ‘plausible deniability’ if you like. These days many individuals can actually monitor who gets on their social sites, and this is particularly true of LinkedIn.
If you, as a hiring manager, have your assistant do the social media digging, you’re more likely not to face any prospective lawsuits, claims or disputes against a disgruntled candidate (or employee after being fired).
Be Open and Honest
It’s sneaky if no one knows you’re sneaking. It’s not if you disclose it right away! By now, everyone knows that social media is the face of many candidates, clueing everyone in on who you are, not only socially, but academically and corporately.
Let your candidates know you’re doing a social media search. Technically, you’re not breaking the law by doing such a thing! Social media is open source. You have a right to search. This, though, lets the candidate know that he or she may want to check off the photo albums for any obscene gestures pictured before you, the hiring manager, end up viewing them. As always, too, requiring permission to search social sites is a necessity. This protects you completely.
As Always, Check With Your Attorney Before Doing a Background Check
We’re in a complete state of flux with the Internet evolving so incredibly fast. As fast as we’re moving through cyberspace, the law must also move with it just as speedily.
It’s always a good move to discuss issues with your business lawyer, ensuring your practices and policies are in line with labor laws, particularly involving social media.
Moreover, please be sure to keep accurate and detailed records about what you’re doing in your online searches. Why? You never know when you’d be accused of impersonating a friend, trying to bypass certain security checks as you get into login screens just to find out the scoops on the next candidate in line. Always keep this in mind: search for “publicly accessible” information. That’s abiding by the law.
Don’t Be “Judgmental”
I might sound like I’m lecturing, but there’s a well-founded, researched — and, more importantly, legal — reason for saying that you basically need to keep your mouth shut when viewing social media websites for apparent “dirt” on a candidate.
Understand that you may have your corporate policies, which is fine — they, however, only apply to your actual employees. Candidates, however, are not quite yet. Legally, you can’t base them on your expectations. You can let them know what you expect. That’s it.
Never let someone’s smoking (cigarettes) habit, as evidenced possibly by pictures on Facebook, deter you from hiring someone just because you may have a policy that says “no smoking on the premises.”
Be Critical, However….
As you should be — you are, after all, a hiring manager. You might even be an actual CEO. Your company means everything to you. Social media can be a great asset. Use it wisely, though.
It can reveal much more out of a candidate, rounding out the image of the individual in such a way that you might have a better understanding of the human being. One thing’s for sure, though: don’t let social media be the last and strongest word determining the “yes” or “no” of any given candidate.
- Image courtesy of Smart photo stock
Matt Faustman is the CEO at UpCounsel. You can follow his business insights on Twitter at @upcounsel.