The growing trend of social media vetting
The advent of the internet and all it has subsequently brought with it means that there is more immediate information freely available than ever before, at the click of a button.
This increasing tide of information-sharing and connectivity has arguably resulted in less and less privacy, as many people share details about their lives on an almost daily basis on social media. Posts expressing opinions, photos and links shared can all go a long way to forming a person’s online identity.
So it’s not hard to see why employers are looking closely at the social media accounts of potential employees as part of their screening process. This growing practice of social media vetting (also known as cyber vetting) is largely accepted and even expected by job hunters nowadays but even so, it is a screening technique that should be used carefully and sensitively by employers.
Here we examine how this rising trend can be potentially problematic for employers, and how social media can be included successfully as part of an employee vetting process.
Challenges of social media vetting
Due to the nature of the information many people post on their social media profiles, making decisions about a new employee’s suitability based on it can be contentious. Many social media posts, particularly among younger social media users, are created quickly and often with the intention to entertain friends and followers, so it’s fair to say that in many cases, they are not designed to be taken completely at face value.
As Deputy Commissioner for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), David Smith, says, “Many young people are posting content online without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind.
“The cost to a person's future can be very high if something undesirable is found by the increasing number of education institutions and employers using the internet as a tool to vet potential students or employees,” (wikipedia.com).
Examples of the active role social media vetting can play in influencing employers job are now well-known, such as cases of job hunters being discounted due to photos deemed inappropriate or provocative, critical discussion of a previous employer or details of excessive drinking or illegal drug use.
In many cases the reasons for ruling out potential candidates as highlighted by social media vetting may seem like common sense, but the problem lies in how unreliable and potentially discriminatory this evidence can be. Both the ICO and employment law experts have stated that making employment decisions based on a candidate’s presence on social media is at best unethical, and could even be illegal (Data Protection Act 1998).
Businesses should be aware of all potential employee’s ‘protected characteristics’ during the recruitment process – the laws in place to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or belief, age, sex and sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity.
Refusing to interview or employ a person based on an aspect of their social media presence can even leave employers open to an Employment Tribunal, if this is linked to the candidate’s protected characteristics (acas.org.uk).
Vetting new employees responsibly
The best way to ensure your company’s employee vetting practices are thorough and legally sound is to use a comprehensive and automated screening software system.
PASS controls every aspect of the background check process for your new employees, ensuring total compliance with maximum efficiency and consistency. Talk to us today about how our Personnel Automated Screening Software can help your business identify the most suitable candidates and get them work-ready.