Thanks to rapid technological advancements, it has never been easier to track and screen potential candidates. Hiring managers only need to get on their computers to do a background check. A recent survey also cited that a growing number of recruiters are using social networking sites for pre-employment screening. But while search engines and social media platforms are useful tools, utilizing them for recruitment and screening has also created an ethical dilemma—how far is too far?

In a study called The Ethics of Pre-Employment Screening Through the Use of the Internet, it was found that over half of applicants found on search engines and nearly two-thirds of candidates found on social media were not hired as a result of the information seen by recruiters. What we see on an applicant’s online profile colors our bias without us knowing. In some cases, it can help us avoid problematic candidates but we must also remember that there is a fine line between red flags and freedom of speech.

Disregarding dichotomy of social presence

Recruiters can argue that we are not crossing the privacy lines since technically, everything online is public information. It is not unheard of, however, for social media savvy applicants to dichotomize their online presence. Applicants may deny you access to their Facebook page in favor of connecting with you through a more professional platform like LinkedIn instead. An article on the Undercover Recruiter suggests not to be quick to write off such candidates. Rather than look at it as an applicant “showing some backbone,” think of it as their ability to properly represent your company by separating their personal and professional lives.

Prying instead of conducting research

There are certain positions that require a flawless social media presence, like those in marketing, public relations, and executive level jobs. But outside of this context, it wouldn’t make sense to be as in-depth with your research. This, according to an HR Zone article, is why companies should have a social media screening policy. Anything that doesn’t concern credentials and qualifications, like age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or political beliefs should not be considered as factors for your hiring decisions. Just as candidates distinguish between private and professional platforms, so too should recruiters and hiring managers.

Failing to inform candidates of social screening

Right now, there is no law in the Philippines that says we are not allowed to collate data from a potential hire’s social media account. The question is “should you?” And if you go through with it, do you let the candidate know that the information you gathered will have bearing on their chances of being employed? In the absence of clear rules, basic human decency dictates that we should at least advise applicants that data on their social media profiles will be used in the hiring process. Should it influence the hiring manager’s decision, they should also be offered the chance to respond.

It’s essential to review candidates’ social media profiles, but we should always consider what is fair and ethical for the hiring process. Relying on your interviewing skills, intuition and recommendations is just as effective, if not more, when looking for promising talent.


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