Employers Continue to be Tentative About the Role of Social Media in their Hiring Process

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The topic of social media remains top-of-mind for many employers. As adoption rates of social media continue to cross generational boundaries and new sites emerge, employers are struggling to remain ahead of the curve and better define how their organizations use social media.

In an era where social media increasingly influences, and in some instances, even dominates, both personal and professional environments, organizations must tackle some serious questions:

  • How much access to social media should employees be granted on company systems? 
  • Is social media a distraction, or does it help boost workplace productivity? 
  • How much are organizations permitted to regulate what is written by their employees on social networking sites? 
  • Can an employer take disciplinary action against a worker who posts unflattering comments about the organization on social media?

With regards to the last couple of questions, employers received some clarification via the National Labor Review Board’s (NLRB) recent decisions on social media policies in the workplace. For many employers, the NLRB’s guidance reversed much of the conservative approach many employers had taken about social media (i.e., prohibition of any negative portrayals of the employer on social media).

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Source: HireRight 2013 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report

Federal Guidance Remains Absent for Social Media Use in Hiring
Unfortunately for talent management professionals, there has yet to be any such federal guidance on social media for a critical HR function like hiring. Therefore, employers are still not entirely certain about social media’s role in the process.

That said, a majority of employers do actively use social media as part of their recruiting function. In HireRight’s 2013 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 54% of respondents indicated that they use social media for recruiting, with another 7% planning to do so.

The practice is even more entrenched at larger employers (500+ employees), with 73% utilizing social media sites for talent acquisition. The data indicate a slight growth from 2012, when 50% of respondents indicated they use social media for recruiting.

Employers Wary of Social Media Background Checks
When it comes to social media background screening, however, employers tend to be much more cautious. Only 14% of respondents to the survey reported that they use social media for background screening purposes, with 7% planning to do so. The numbers indicate a marginally declining year-over-year trend, since in 2012, 15% of employers were using social media for background screening and 9% were planning to do so.

Far and away, Facebook is the most popular site for employers using social media for background screening, with 83% incorporating it into their employment screening process. LinkedIn (68%) and Google+ (32%) were the second and third most popular sites, respectively.

At least part of this reluctance is not just due to the lack of clear regulatory or case law guidance on the practice, but can also be attributed to employers wanting to steer clear of thorny issues like discrimination and invasions of privacy.

Given these concerns, HireRight asked the employers who were using social media as part of their background screening effort if they have a company policy to govern the process. Fewer than one-fourth (24%) of respondents indicated they do—a concerning statistic.

Without any guidelines governing how social media background screening is conducted, what information can be used in the hiring decision, and how to verify information, organizations risk exposing themselves to a variety of potential liabilities and may be inappropriately limiting their candidate pool based on subjective criteria.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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