Utilizing Social Media
It is currently legal to review a candidate’s on-line “public” presence. This should only be done at a specific point in the hiring process, usually later. The University does not recommend social media reviews be conducted as part of the hiring process because there are risks to conducting this type of inquiry. However, if it you have a legitimate reason related to a candidate’s qualifications for the position, please follow the guidelines below:
Only Review Content that is “Public” - “Public presence” means any information obtainable from the internet that a common person would be able to find about another person. It is not permissible to obtain information through privileged access (e.g., friending a candidate on Facebook in order to gain access to their page or asking others with LinkedIn access to view a candidate’s page and provide information on it). You should be cautious in conducting even legal “public presence” searches and evaluating results learned from social media because candidates with common surnames may be misidentified or misattributed in online sources.
Request Human Resources to Review the Candidate’s Social Media - It is best if someone from HR, rather than you, checks candidates social media profiles. The HR professional is more likely to know what he or she can and cannot consider.
If Human Resources Doesn’t Review the Candidate’s Social Media, Then You Can Do It Yourself - If you have additional reviewers, you can request one of them to check out the candidates’ online presence but be sure that you dedicate just one person to the task. Note that it is quite easy to come across “protected information,” which creates a risk of this information being introduced to the decision-making process.
Generally speaking, “protected information” is information that is irrelevant to the hiring decision and should not be considered during the decision-making process. For instance, a candidate may have a public Twitter or Facebook account that shows that the person is attempting to conceive a child (or) shares political views and activities (or) reveals a sexual orientation (or) that the person has a disability (or) other information that is considered protected information.
If “protected information” is revealed, the person conducting any social media investigation, may not share this information with other people reviewing the candidate’s credentials and the information cannot be considered in the evaluation process. If there are questions about any information learned during a social media review of a candidate and whether that information should be shared and/or considered by the reviewers, please contact HR to discuss.
Review the Candidate’s Online Presence Later in the Process - Check social media profiles after a candidate has been interviewed, when the candidate’s membership in protected groups is likely already known.
Be Consistent - If you decide to review one candidate’s online presence, you must review for all the candidates.
Document Concerns and Seek Guidance - Print out the page containing social media content which reveals blatant discriminatory comments or content or shows discrepancies on their application. This information should be first brought to HR for discussion to determine if this information should be shared with your reviewers/evaluators or if you should give the candidate a chance to respond to findings of worrisome social media content.
Consider the Source - Focus on the candidate’s own posts and tweets, not on what others are saying or have said about the candidate.