Lessons Learned in Social Media, Recruiting and Discrimination

By Mia Mancini

Apr. 26, 2017


Employers have been getting hit big recently for negligent hiring, according to attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO Employment Screening Resources. He presented how to successfully use social media for recruiting or background screening during Day 1 of the SHRM Talent Management Conference and Exposition in Chicago.

“Social media allows employers to look under the hood to who a candidate really is,” said Rosen. “But if you use it incorrectly, there’s a world of privacy and discrimination problems that could arise.” Rosen said employers need to be aware of TMI — too much information — while using social media for recruiting. Employers become knowledgeable of factors that should not be considered for employment purposes.

According to a 2016 survey by SHRM, 56 percent of organizations said a job candidate’s online profile can’t indicate work-related performance. “Social media should not be a tool that allows you to stop someone from getting to the interview stage because you found information that’s not a valid predictor of job performance,” said Rosen.

Discrimination rules still apply even during sourcing or if the candidate doesn’t know their social media profile is being looked at. To avoid a lawsuit, you need objective, consistent and documented procedures to demonstrate information found online is a valid predictor of job performance and used fairly.

“Employers need to consider ADA aspects, such as a website showing dress, appearance, or lifestyle based upon religion,” said Rosen. Employers can’t hire everyone, but they must be able to prove that a candidate’s profile didn’t deter them from the job due to discrimination. He recommends using social media later in the hiring process.

“Firms can be at risk for discrimination claims for “failure to hire” in sourcing, even if a person is passed over and they don’t even know it,” said Rosen. To prevent this, he said clearly stating the essential functions of a job in its description. He recommends an organization has a clear policy and documented training in discrimination. “Establish standard practices to show decisions are made on an objective basis using metrics,” said Rosen. Document when a person meets the objective criteria, but why they weren’t included in the next steps of the hiring process.

Rosen said automated key word searches to comb through a candidate’s profile can be ineffective. “The problem with key words is its all context,” said Rosen. Instead, perform social media checks through a 3rd party behind an “ethics wall”. They don’t make the hiring decisions and only provide job related data to the decision maker after there has been an offer.

Recruiters and HR scan candidate’s social media for different purposes. According to SHRM, 84 percent of organizations used social media sites to recruit candidates in 2015. Eighty-two percent of those organizations said the top reason was to recruit passive job candidates who might not otherwise apply.

“Recruiters looking for passive candidates look for positive attributes, while HR looks for the negative,” said Rosen. As the years increase, so do the percentage of employers who find alarming information on job candidates’ social media — enough for them to not get hired. More than one-third (36 percent) of organizations rejected a job candidate in 2015 because of “concerning information” such as illegal activity or discrepancy with applications found on a social media or online searches.

Rosen recalled a recruiter who found a perfect candidate with great credentials. While checking their social media, the recruiter discovered the candidate offered sexual services at night via Craigslist. If negative material is found online, he suggests showing it to the applicant before dismissing them. “There is less risk for HR professionals if Internet searches are done pursuant to a written consent and after a conditional job offer has been made,” said Rosen. “Social media is growing as a tool for recruiting and sourcing, as long as you use it wisely.”

Mia Mancini is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email

Mia Mancini was an intern for Workforce.

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