Guest Article

The simple answer is Yes! But we aren’t simple people, are we? As the social media landscape expands, society continues to embrace it and share EVERYTHING. I knew social media had turned a corner when my mom jumped on Facebook and started asking me about everything I post.

With this new openness, it is enticing to go out and research applicants for positions in our businesses and force our current employees to “friend” us on social media platforms. First, many states have passed laws stating that we can’t force our employees to give access to their social media accounts. But what if you go out and find what’s “public” on social sites? Technically you can, but there are some large pitfalls that can quickly land you in hot legal water by finding out protected information about a job applicant. Here are a few things to consider before hitting starting an internet search.

RELIGION

By checking out an applicant’s social media accounts, we might discover their religious preferences. Because our country is diverse, we hire employees from a variety of countries, cultures, and religious backgrounds.  In a perfect world, the religious beliefs of a given employee would not cause conflict. But religious preferences can affect various areas- styles of dress, hair care, recruiting others to a faith, certain dietary restrictions, praying and fasting, avoiding certain behaviors and observing different religious holidays. Because of those preferences, religion is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So, if you were to check an applicant’s social media account and discover their religion preferences and then not hire them, you might put yourself in a position to be sued by the applicant.

POLITICS

One of the most divisive subjects in America right now and across the world is politics. We can create real issues in our workplace by revealing political leanings. What if this person’s social media accounts speak to different political view than yours? What if they have the same views as you? Does this hurt or help them in the job seeking process? This can open up real issues if you use this information in a hiring decision.

CONSISTENCY

If you were to start a policy of checking social media on applicants, you would have to be consistent in checking all applicants. This creates a new barrier in the hiring process that we would have to define. What are we checking for? Is this a process that would disqualify the prospect from getting hired? What exact parameters are you judging? What happens if you really like one candidate, but they have one of the disqualifiers on our list? You might find yourselves with more questions than answers.

So instead of taking the simple answer, become more job centric in your hiring processes. It is imperative that whoever you hire for your positions can actually perform the job. Instead of concentrating on “fit” which leads us to doing things like checking on our applicant’s social media profiles, concentrate on creating interview templates that are job based so that you can find the best applicants for your positions.

Make sure that you have a strong social media policy in place. Ultimately, if your employees have major social media missteps, you will hear about it whether you are personally connected with them or not. There’s really no need to open the Pandora’s Box of checking your applicant’s social media profiles.

If you want to learn more about how to hire and keep great talent in your small business, register for Reinvention Weekend 2017, in Washington, DC and attend Oginga’s HR workshop on Oct 7th.

About the author:

Oginga Carr is the CEO of Epiphany Consulting LLC. He brings almost 20 years of experience in Sales, Management, and Human Resources Management. His passion is in the dynamic of change; How to prepare for it, how to work through it, and How to succeed. Oginga focuses on productivity through structure and human capital development. Oginga has trained tens of thousands of HR Professionals in 49 states.

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