As the use of social media vetting continues to sweep through the pre-employment screening industry, it is beginning to feel like the entire world is snooping through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn looking for the slightest hint of wrongdoing to help narrow down their short list of candidates.
This explosion in the use of such checks has prompted a flood of comments on the use of social media as a part of vetting prior to employment, with many expressing concerns about privacy, ethics, and the potential for discrimination against various social groups – especially following the enactment of the Data Protection Act 2018, GDPR and the current media focus on data privacy. It should be made clear that the online stalking of either current employees or potential candidates prior to even being interviewed is not an appropriate use of such a valuable tool, and is not only irresponsible but in some cases, quite possibly illegal.
There are more benefits to the responsible use of social media vetting than many individuals may realise or like to admit – responsible in this case being defined as being controlled, impartial, performed at an appropriate time within the on-boarding process (for example, once a position has been offered and accepted, subject to further checks) and with a sensible approach to the date of publication of any content and the candidates age at the time the content was published – it would be unfair to penalise any individual for content posted years before their current employment application, or when they were only sixteen years old.
A robust and responsibly managed social media vetting program will not only comply with current legislation, it will also protect both the employer from bad hires that prove costly from a time investment and financial perspective, and current employees from being exposed to anti-social or irresponsible individuals that diminish morale and personal security in the workplace. Take for example the recent case where the founder of a company commissioned a full social media check on a candidate that she believed would be the perfect fit for her finance company:
“He had written on his profile that he was currently a director of my brother’s company. I had previously never heard of the guy and asked my brother about him, who was more than a little confused as to who he was. It turned out he had no experience whatsoever and the candidate had just plucked my brothers company off the internet, believing it gave him a good image on his profile. We didn’t hire him, and my brother got in touch over social media and asked him politely to remove his company name.”
Of course, the best social media vetting systems will also contain an impartial human element that can differentiate between the use of sarcasm, humour and potentially adverse content, and will also be able to take the context of the information into account. This allows an informed yet real world approach to be adopted when checking an individuals online history.
Candidates must accept that we now live in a world where more and more information is freely shared on the internet by individuals, and it is no longer realistic to think that content posted online will remain private. It is therefore wise to consider your online footprint as an extension of your CV, only far more useful as a means of presenting an accurate representation of yourself to others - including potential employers. Whereas a CV is often a dry, fact based document that is undeniably essential to your career, your online presence is the perfect way to express who you are and what your ideals may be, selling your personality to prospective employers in a way that no CV can.
Remember, in an already competitive job market, any chance that you have to highlight your strengths should be taken, and a good social media profile should go hand in hand with your CV to present the best view of you that is possible.
Finally, if you feel that the importance of your social media presence is being overstated, consider that a recent survey found that more than 40% of employers had hired candidates because of the content found on their social media.