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Should you make a hiring decision based upon a social media post?

There are no laws governing the use of social media in hiring decisions

Social media could be to hiring what the computer was to the typewriter – a more efficient way to do business, especially when it comes to hiring and recruitment. There are however a few caveats.

Companies have to rely upon existing legislation on data protection and equal opportunities. This means that to minimise the risk of a lawsuit or bad publicity you need to develop a strategy that outlines just how you will use social media in the hiring process.

With formal guidelines that define what is used for consideration in the decision-making process and who is doing the looking, the final decision as to whether to hire an applicant based upon a social media post becomes easier to evaluate.

A well thought-out strategy will ensure a consistent process that screens all potential candidates at the same depth. It will also include a system for checking the accuracy and reliability of information gleaned from social media sites.

It is best practice to prioritise career-oriented information found on industry-specific sites or from professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. This way, the post in question is more likely to be relevant to the job and to answer the question as to whether the applicant has the ability to perform well in the role.

Having HR or an external provider undertake social media background checks for you can ensure that a social media post isn’t flagged on the grounds of race, gender, marital status or religious affiliation. A hiring professional will also understand that an applicant’s right to privacy means entitlement to their own opinions on certain cultural topics.

Experts also suggest that your policy to use social media be a transparent one. Ask applicants for their social media links and give them the opportunity to address anything of concern that may come up.

There is more than one reason for this. Evidence indicates that applicants have put up fake profiles of their competition in order to undermine the chances of someone else getting the job. There is also the risk that the profile upon which you are basing your decision does not, in fact, belong to the candidate but to someone of the same name.

People tend to be far more outspoken on social media than they are in an interview. This makes the use of social media in the hiring process, a cost-effective way in which to gain insight into an applicant’s behaviour.

However, this must be contextualised. Social media showcases behaviour that is off-the-clock. Unless knowing how to use social media is part of the target role, there is some discussion as to whether an applicant’s private life should really have a bearing on the final decision to hire.

Social media posts are context-driven and you will have to consider whether an accurate judgement can be made out of context. It is, of course, your right to protect your company’s reputation. Racist comments and lewd behaviour by someone you choose to hire might ultimately have an impact on what social media has to say about your company.

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