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Myth Busters: Can we use information about candidates posted on social networking sites to help us make recruitment decisions?

Clearly employers must not use this information to reach decisions that are discriminatory

Accessing a candidate’s social media profile is a legitimate recruitment tool. It can be a quick and cheap way to obtain insight into a candidate’s real character and their potential suitability for the job. Clearly employers must not use this information to reach decisions that are discriminatory.

We recommend that you conduct social media investigations in a uniform way, by for example, searching the same sites for all of the applicants for a position. Information obtained from social networking sites could be screened by someone outside the recruitment process to ensure that any information relating to an applicant’s disabilities, sexual orientation or other protected characteristics are removed from the profile.

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Vetting of job applicants via social media will involve processing personal data (when the employer either uses or records the information obtained), so you must ensure that your enquiries comply with the Data Protection Act. The ICO’s guidance suggests:-

• Vetting should be used to confirm specific points rather than for general intelligence gathering;
• Information should only be sought from sources where it is likely that relevant information will be revealed;
• Employers must avoid placing reliance on potentially unreliable sources.

You may find that in obtaining social media profiles, you have more information about some candidates than others, particularly those without electronic footprints. There is nothing wrong with this – it is usual for employers to have varying degrees of knowledge about candidates. Careful interview questioning will enable all candidates to expand on their suitability for the role.

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