The effect of GDPR on social media checking

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Social media checking is now a standard part of pre-employment screening. According to recent research by YouGov, up to 80% of employers are likely to check a candidate's social media accounts as part of their recruitment and onboarding procedure. But with the highly publicised onset of GDPR, along with the severe repercussions of not complying (fines can run into their millions), employers must ensure that their checking processes are appropriate and do not put them at the risk of breaking the law.

Gone are the days of the social media free for all, with everyone and anyone able to call up a drunken graduation photo from ten years ago and use it as cause to refuse employment. But with 1.36 million people currently seeking work and 833,000 job vacancies, employers are understandably looking for ways to reduce the shortlist of applicants. In fact, the YouGov survey also found that one in five employers have previously turned down candidates based on their social media activity, but consequences for doing so while not complying with GDPR could create a costly, litigious nightmare.

GDPR is primarily about consent to view and use personal data, as well as ensuring that only those who have justifiable cause to view the data do so. Employers should notify candidates before viewing their social media accounts, and consent should be obtained in a clear and easy to understand manner. Ensure that candidates are aware of exactly what their consent means, what information they are giving access to and how that information will be used.

GDPR also requires that employers only view social media profiles when the information is relevant to the position they are applying for. So that drunken graduation photograph isn't necessarily relevant to the job application at hand. Social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, which primarily serve a personal purpose are probably not relevant, while one could argue that activity on LinkedIn, which is a social network aimed primarily at the business community, is significantly pertinent to any job application.

Using a reputable pre-employment screening company will ensure that any social media background checking is carried out in line with the guidelines set out in GDPR, while being comprehensive enough to root out any adverse social media content which might prove that a candidate would be unsuitable for the position.