Why Social Media Screening is Unethical

Image from Google
Image from Google

With the recent addition of social media in the job recruitment process, companies have more information on job candidates, possibly too much information.

The introduction of social media in the recruitment process has led to many heated debates and after researching both sides of this debate, I believe job recruiters should not screen a candidate’s social media account during the recruitment process because of it is invasive to the job seeker and can quite possibly be illegal.

Social media screening is invasive to the candidates privacy. As the name entails, social media is designed for social and personal use, and so it should not be to a platform for recruiters to seek out professionalism. The purpose of Facebook and many other social media accounts is to be a place where people can interact with family and friends. So accessing  information on Facebook or any other social media site wouldn’t tell a recruiter how a candidate would perform on the job, so what entitles them access to it? There is no reason for them to seek out information about a candidate’s professionalism on Facebook because there’s LinkedIn for that. Also, the content posted on Facebook profiles isn’t something that candidates expect recruiters to see, because of its personal nature. So when recruiters do screen social media accounts, it’s seen as highly unprofessional. I mean who would want to work for a place that thinks it’s okay for them to pry into your personal life?  In fact, a study done by North Carolina State University researchers, reported that job candidates who found out that their social media profiles were being screened by recruiters were less likely to view the hiring process as honorable and less likely to take up the job offer.

Image from Google

In some cases, social media screening is found to be illegal. When recruiters screen social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter, they may involuntarily uncover “protected class” information.  There are “federal and state laws that say an applicant’s protected class information; age, race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability and veteran status cannot be considered when a company is screening job applicants”(Ohio State Bar Association). For instance, a candidate’s’ Facebook page can disclose information that a recruiter is not legally supposed to know during the recruitment, like the”protected class” information mentioned in the latter sentence. If it’s discovered that the recruiter ultimately relied on that information — intentionally or unintentionally — it could lead to discrimination lawsuits. Being exposed to “protected class information” can also introduce bias or prejudice into the hiring process, and can make it impossible for a recruiter to make objective, non-discriminatory hiring decisions. To avoid possible discrimination lawsuits and the possibility of having your biases negatively affect a candidate’s livelihood, it’s best for recruiters to avoid screening personal social media accounts.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 2.33.09 PM
Image from Go-gulf

Although social media screening, as I mentioned in my post  “Recruiters Call For The Use Of Social Media,” can be used to find information about a candidate work ethic, after doing more research on the subject, I found out I was mislead because most of the social media screening being done are not inquiring about a candidate’s professionalism (which is what should be inquired about). Rather recruiters are focusing their evaluations and eliminating candidates if they “posted provocative/inappropriate photographs or information or if they was information about them drinking or using drugs” on social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter, which again are outlets meant for personal use and not for professional use. These sorts of inquiries have nothing to do with how the candidate performs at work and, therefore, should not be looked up or be the main influences that factor into a candidate’s evaluation.

It’s necessary for a candidate to feel safe in the work environment. So how can recruiters expect to have outstanding employees if they don’t trust them in the beginning? To create a healthy and safe work environment for job seekers and recruiters, recruiters/companies should altogether ban the screening of personal social media accounts(ie Facebook and Twitter) during job recruitment or create strict guidelines that protect the privacy of candidates and prevents discrimination.


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