Social Recruiting: Keeping Things Legal

By Cheryl Morgan

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Social recruiting can benefit employers and candidates alike.


Social media has become one of the most powerful tools in the recruiter's kit. Social recruiting allows companies to extend their reach, find coveted passive job seekers, and target employment ads effectively. When done well, it can shorten the hiring cycle and keep hiring costs under control. Additionally, many job candidates use social media as a job-seeking tool, and often publicise their online presence in an attempt to find attractive job offers.

However, when social recruiting practices are misused, employers risk exposing themselves to legal risks when using social media for attracting and screening job candidates. But with planning and common sense, many of these risks can be avoided. If you're ever unsure whether a particular social media practice is risky, it's best to ask an employment law solicitor beforehand.

Risk of Learning About Protected Characteristics

According to a publication by Linklaters LLP titled "Social Media and the Law: A Handbook for UK Companies," there are risks to some social recruiting vetting practices. One risk is of obtaining information about "protected characteristics" which include information on age, marriage or civil partnership status, status as a transsexual person, parenthood or pregnancy status, and information on race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. Should an employer obtain protected information, a job applicant could later claim that the employer's decision not to hire them was based on that protected information, making the action discriminatory. You can mitigate this risk.

Best Practices for Vetting Employees Using Social Media

When vetting potential employees using social media, attention to privacy issues is essential. Some best practices include:

  • Letting applicants know social media vetting will take place. This may encourage applicants to alter privacy settings or otherwise "clean up" their social media accounts.
  • Allowing job candidates to comment on accuracy of what you find about them on social media. If nothing else, it can ensure you haven't been looking at another person with the same name.
  • Keeping scrutiny reasonable. For example, someone in a public facing role may require more scrutiny than someone who will not interact with the public.

One thing you should never do in social recruiting is gain access to someone's social media profile by deception, such as by sending a friend request under a false identity. Nor should you ask an applicant their username and password. Though no UK legislation specifically addresses this, it may breach the Data Protection Act of 1998, and it is also illegal in several states in the US.


When Should You Look at a Job Candidate's Social Profiles?


Don't use social media to vet candidates prematurely.

Social media vetting as part of social recruiting should take place late in the search process rather than early. It is best to avoid social media vetting until after an applicant has been interviewed in person, short-listed, or even conditionally offered a position. By waiting, you're less likely to be accused of relying on protected characteristics or of making an uninformed decision based on a social media account.

Social media vetting as part of social recruiting should be consistent. In other words, you should conduct the same vetting at the same point in the process for all applicants. It's also smart to save time-stamped screen shots if you find something that causes you to question a job candidate's honesty, professionalism, or judgment.


When You Learn of Non-Protected Negative Information

Should you, in the course of a social recruiting push, learn non-protected, but worrying information about a candidate from social media, you should treat it as if you had learned of the information from a resume or during an interview. Bear in mind that a job candidate may not control every image of them on a social site and take the information in context. Before relying on this information in your employment decision, consult with your employment law solicitor for advice on how to proceed.


Remember: Social Media Vetting Goes Both Ways

Companies that use social recruiting should ensure their own social media pages create a coherent company brand. Job seekers routinely use social media to vet companies they are considering working for, and you should assume job seekers will learn about your company (including the identity of potential interviewers) from social media and other web sources. Keep track of who within your company or within a third-party service provider is empowered to add to or change content on your company's social profiles and monitor social sites to ensure information is consistent and correct.



Social-Hire is a recruitment industry leader in social media marketing. We help companies like yours create and fine-tune social recruiting strategies so you can build the talent pool you need for long term success. We invite you to contact us to set up a consultation about your social media strategy. We would be happy to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.

About the company

We won't just do social media strategies. Social Hire will work collaboratively with your team to ensure your business gets genuine value from us and that your team gets the most out of the service. Our experienced social media managers are motivated to make a enhancements to your social media marketing and reaching targets in a way that realistically makes a difference to your business goals.

What the Social Hire gang loves is making a difference for our clients, and we don't want to waste your, or our resources on campaigns that aren't right for your organisation, if it doesn't get your organisation the difference you need - we take a different approach. When your business utilises social media management, Social Hire get your brand the exposure it needs and offer your business the lift it needs to improve.

We're a company that helps our customers further their social media presence by providing social media marketing on a monthly basis.

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