Selection / Background Checks

Why You Shouldn’t Search Candidates on Social Media

Last updated: November 30, 2018

image of a candidate search on Facebook

Why you should avoid searching candidates on social media

If you want to learn more about your top candidates, what could be easier than doing an Internet search to check out their online profiles?

Although this might seem like a quick and useful way to learn more about your candidates’ suitability for the job, doing so is potentially prohibited by privacy laws and may make you vulnerable to human rights complaints.

A guidance document prepared by the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia reminds employers that when a public body employer (like a school district) searches for information about an individual, the use of that information must comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

This legislation requires that any information you collect about prospective employees must be accurate and relevant.

However, when you search for information online, you have no way of controlling ahead of time the accuracy or relevance of the content that pops up on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social networking sites and other online sites.

Consider the following:

  • The potential for inaccurate information: Are you sure that the Facebook profile, Twitter page or Instagram page that landed at the top of your search results really belongs to your candidate? You might be viewing the account of someone with the same name, or potentially an imposter account set up to discredit someone.
  • The potential for irrelevant information: Undoubtedly, a social media account will generate more information than you need to evaluate a candidate against your selection criteria. And this puts you offside when it comes to collecting only relevant information for the job search.

There’s another potential pitfall, too. When you start clicking on all the links that come up when you google a candidate, it’s inevitable that you will be gathering information that falls under the protected areas in the Human Rights Code, such as age, family status, gender identity and expression and ethnicity.

This opens you up to human rights complaints if the candidate feels they were not shortlisted or hired after you collected information about one or more of these protected characteristics. For example, if you found out from a Facebook post that a job candidate was pregnant or disabled and did not hire the candidate, the candidate could potentially file a human rights complaint stating that you discriminated against them unfairly in the selection process.

Remember, all aspects of your recruitment and selection process must be free of bias and comply with legislation. Having a rigorous, consistent process that relies on predefined selection criteria is simply the best and most fair approach to hiring candidates. Read our article on legal considerations in the selection process and privacy guidelines and storing information for more on these important topics.

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