Employer Use of Social Media as a Screening Tool Increased

Jul 11 2016 - Hiring, Social Media - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

The number of employers who use social networking sites to research job candidates continues to rise. Sixty percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder use these sites to screen candidates, a significant increase from 52 percent last year and only 11 percent in 2006 when this survey was first conducted. In addition, 59 percent of hiring managers use search engines to research candidates.

social media screening of job applicants

Be careful when using social media to screen job candidates.

According to the survey, hiring managers in information technology (76 percent) and sales (65 percent) are the most likely to use social networks to screen candidates; professional and business services were least likely.

Almost half of hiring managers who screen via social networks said that they have found online information that caused them not to hire a candidate.

The top pieces of content that turned off these employers were:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information — 46 percent
  • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs — 43 percent
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. — 33 percent
  • Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee — 31 percent
  • Poor communication skills — 29 percent

However, not all the information found on social media was bad. About one-third of employers who screen candidates via social networks found information that caused them to hire a candidate, such as information that supported job qualifications and information conveying a professional image.

Not Allowed In California

Not all job candidates make their social networking information public, leading some employers to not want to hire these candidates. More than two in five employers surveyed by Career Builder said that they were less likely to interview a job candidate if they couldn’t find any online information about the candidate.

Many employers who screen via social networks requested to “be a friend” or follow candidates who have private accounts — 36 percent. Of that group, 68 percent say they’ve been granted permission — down from 80 percent last year.

But in California, this type of request is not allowed.

California employers are prohibited under California Labor Code section 980 from requiring or requesting applicants or employees to disclose information regarding their personal social media accounts. In other words, an employer cannot ask a potential hire or a current employee for the password to his/her Facebook account to see information that might not be shared with the public or to accept a “friend” request.

In addition, an employer should be wary about uncovering information on social media that is not relevant to your job search and that you may not have otherwise known, such as an employee’s religion, disability or gender expression. Your social media searches will be discoverable if a candidate sues you claiming you didn’t hire him or her because you found out the candidate is a member of a protected class.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

CalChamber members can learn more about social media in the HR Library’s Social Media section. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.

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