4 tips for using Facebook legally to conduct background checks (includes video)
Facebook and social media can offer a wealth of beneficial information when vetting job applicants. But heed this advice before logging on to check out a candidate's background
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
June 15, 2011 — CSO —
As more people create Facebook profiles (500 million and growing), and sign on to the many social media sites available today, hiring managers are finding they have new opportunities to get background information on job candidates.
Tapping into a potential hire's Facebook profile, or Twitter account, for information means you can learn more about a candidate's personality than you might get with just a job interview. A Facebook profile, or collection of tweets, can offer additional insight into whether or not a person might be a good fit with a corporation's culture. On the flip side, a thorough check of one's social media footprint might also uncover some serious missteps, or questionable judgments, a potential hire has made in their past. Having the benefit of finding this BEFORE a hire has been made may make some organizations feel thankful they've dodged the bullet of a potential disastrous addition to the work ranks.
But in between the good and the bad information is plenty of data that is illegal to view if you are making a hiring decision. And even if a hiring manager honestly does not use off-limits material, once they have seen it on Facebook, it can become grounds for a lawsuit.
"It not about the medium," according to Victoria Mavis, president & senior consultant at Core People Resources, a human-resource-services firm in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania."It's about what you do with the information you get. Whether I get it off the background information check or off of Facebook, is it information I should have access to in the first place?"
For a little guidance on navigating the new landscape of information out there on potential hires, we spoke with human resource and labor law experts on ways to be smart when using Facebook and other social media to check up on job candidates.
Tip #1: If you're going to use Facebook to vet job applicants, make it clear, up front, in the hiring process
If you plan to take advantage of social media venues, like Facebook, to conduct background investigations, the most important first step is to have a policy, and make sure candidates are aware of it, said Mavis.
"Let candidates know you are going to do background checks so you can do it properly and get authorization," she said.
That means disclosing all of the places you may go searching for information about a potential hire, and all of the things you may go looking for.