Part 1 of this series addressed what employers should avoid when using Facebook or other social-networking sites to screen potential employees. In this post, we look at some of the steps employers should take to minimize the legal risks associated with this practice.
Before you start surfing the Web, first gather the key decision makers to discuss whether the organization should adopt this practice at all. Exchange ideas about the potential benefits and concerns associated with searching for information on Facebook or Google. Consider including as many stakeholders as practicable, including members of senior management, Human Resources personnel, and hiring managers.
Some organizations feel that a Facebook search does not comport with their culture or core values and, as a result, have decided not to use such searches as part of the hiring process. This question does not have a “right” answer but should be given significant consideration before implementing an official policy or practice.
Assuming the discussion results in the decision to incorporate Internet searches into the background-check process, you should next discuss, in detail, exactly what it is that you’ll be looking for in your search. Aim to identify up to 10 specific things that would give you cause for alarm if seen on a candidate’s online profile.
Common red flags for many employers include the candidate’s use of or promotion of the use of illegal drugs, any type of language or imagery that promotes hate, threats of physical violence or other hostile or aggressive comments. There may also be legitimate concerns about a candidate who posts negative comments about his former employer or co-workers or who discloses inappropriate information belonging to a former employer or customers.
You also can identify some positive online activities, as well, such as if the candidate maintains a blog, which is well written or, even better, related to his professional interests. Once you’ve finalized your checklist, put it in writing. Create a form that lists the various items (good and bad) that you’ll be looking for. Leave a space for the name of the company representative who will be performing the search, the date the search was conducted, and the name of the candidate.
Stay tuned for the final part in this series, when we will address some additional (and important) best practices for employers who decide to conduct an online search as part of the hiring process.