July 20th, 2017 | Sterling

How to Mitigate the Compliance Risks of Social Media Screening

Colorful computer buttons social

There is no way around it; we live in a social media world.  It has come to a point where the first thing that people do after they wake up is check their social media accounts, and they are then connected throughout the entire day. According to We Are Social, the number of active internet users in Canada is 33 million while the number of active social network users is 23 million and 20 million of these people engage with social platforms via mobile devices. Canadian Millennials are the largest group to participate in social media usage with over 64% saying they use some form of social networking every day. The most popular social platforms in Canada are Facebook and YouTube, tied at 74% and Twitter in third place with 37%.

According to The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), in the US, 56% of recruiters say some of their best candidates are sourced via social networks while 90% of recruiters use social networks to vet candidates pre-interview. In a 2014 survey, it was found that 51% of Canadian employers who researched job candidates on social platforms said they’d found content that caused them to reject an applicant.

In our latest webinar, “Social Media Background Screening: How to Mitigate Compliance Risks,” Sterling Talent Solutions discussed what social media screening is and why it is a valuable part of the background screening process. Bianca Lager, President of Social Intelligence, joined Mark Sward, Director of Privacy and Iain Murray, Regional Executive gave insight to the risks, rewards and importance of social media screening.

Why is Social Media so Valuable for HR?

Social media screening is very valuable to recruiters, hiring managers and employers. It humanizes the candidate and makes them more than just the words on their resume. Online profiles can be very revealing with both positive and negative content being shared in what is a very public domain. As shown in the stats above, employers are carrying out social media screening to vet candidates, but not everyone is comfortable with processing these checks. Attendees of the webinar were asked: “From a legal perspective, how do you feel about screening a candidate’s social profiles?” The majority of webinar attendees were nervous about running social media checks.

The poll results are representative of the overall worries of social media screening. There is so much content on social profiles that can influence a hiring manager, but not all of this content will relate to a candidate’s work experience. Some information can be applied to a hiring decision, while other information cannot. Our webinar goes into more detail with regards to the type of insight which must not be used to make a hiring decision, but organizations must remain compliant and take great care when exposed to information about a candidate’s private life.

What is Social Media Screening?

What is social media screening? It is “the process of capturing any activity on the internet relating to your candidate that is potentially incriminating.” Vetting online profiles can provide unique insight about a candidate and may reveal potentially unlawful, violent, racist, intolerant and sexually explicit behaviours that would not show up during the interview process. Another consideration with regards to social media screening is when to perform the checks. Social media searches should be carried out as late in the recruitment process as reasonably practical. A key point to remember is that a candidate must be informed if a social platform or other online source is used to research information that could affect their application.

It is highly recommended to use a third-party screening company for social media searches. A third party social screening solution will only focus on the relevant information that relates to job performance and workplace safety. Whereas, a hiring manager could look at an online profile and unconsciously (or consciously) make a hiring decision based on looks or post types. There is a fine line between being compliant and looking at information about a candidate’s personal life from their online profiles.

How do an outsourced social media checks work? Third parties adapt their searches to only use information that applies to the job. Sterling Talent Solutions offers two types of social media screening: Character or Reputation searches. A Character Search will look for negative behaviours that are publically available user-generated content. A Reputation Search provides a 360-degree view of a candidate’s reputation and includes user-generated content, both positive and negative, to get more of a “sense” of the candidate.

Who to include in your social media screening?

What type of candidates should you include in social media screening? Everyone! Millennials are not just the only ones using social platforms today. According to a Pew Internet Study reported in the NY Daily News, 60% of 50-64-year-olds and 43% of those over 65 now use Facebook. All industry sectors and job roles should also be included in social media screening.

Social Media Screening Compliance

A hiring manager, employer or HR manager must be compliant with Canadian privacy and human rights laws when performing online searches. A DIY approach to social media screening increases a company’s liability. A third party provider will help a company mitigate their risks. Below are a few considerations for a social media screening:

  • Sensitive personal information should generally not be used as part of the recruitment process
  • Employers must be compliant with applicable privacy and labour legislation
  • Hiring decisions should be targeted on finding important information relevant to the decision to offer employment
  • Personal information collected during the recruitment process should not be kept longer than necessary

Please note: Sterling Talent Solutions is not a law firm. The material available in this publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We encourage you to consult with your legal counsel to obtain a legal opinion specific to your needs.

With social media screening becoming more prevalent in the hiring process, it is very important that employers develop a clear policy towards the use of social media for recruitment purposes. Companies should have a background screening policy in place to help document compliance and the hiring process. There are risks and rewards for a company that performs social media screening, find out what these are and much more in the On Demand version of the very informative webinar.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.