Hiring Managers Taking Too Much Advantage of Social Media

It’s so easy, so tempting, to "Google" candidates as part of the hiring process. But, as Tamara Russell (an attorney with Barran Lebman LLP) told the RIMS conference this week in Vancouver, they could be violating employment and privacy laws.

She told conference attendants that performing an Internet search is akin to interviewing them. “You cannot ask certain questions online that you wouldn’t and shouldn’t ask during an interview.”

For example, during an Internet search, you might come across posts by the candidate about their sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Under US laws, those are topics you may not ask about.
Certainly, employers should not base hiring decisions on information found during a Google search, even if legal, without verifying its accuracy. For example, how do you know that the Norman Marks you searched on is the same one you are considering for a position? Even if you look for Norman Marks who plays bridge in the San Francisco area, you might find the wrong person (there are three of us). I am also not the one who ran a health club and won multiple body building competitions!
Some of the risks involved in an Internet search might be avoided if candidates agree, in writing, to the company doing it. But, I suggest this be an area that is carefully reviewed with legal counsel fist.
I welcome your views.

Posted on May 4, 2011 by Norman Marks

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  1. Great point- but "policing" (for lack of a better word) would be impossible unless the hiring manager mentions information not disclosed during the interview process or in the resume or application to the applicant or a fellow employee.

  1. Whether or not any of us agree with potential candidates being "Googled", it is going to happen. We all are losing our privacy inch by inch. And while I agree that our "off-hour" activity should not be any concern to management, it is important to remember that managers are people and people have biases. This fact needs to be considered when using social media.
  1. First, what you mention is not really social media.  There is a difference between user generated content shared in social networks and what a Google search may turn up.  A Google search may yeild a social media based result, however the distinction between the two is what someone chooses to release into the internet and what might be published with or withour your knowledge by another party. 

    The beauty of social media is that it is what you share, so as an individual you can protect yourself (and those pictures from that weekend in Vegas).   Check your privacy settings, read the terms and conditions for any internet based activities, and don't share anything you wouldn't want your grandmother/potential boss to see.  If you are really concerned, remove your internet presence.  As far as what Google may turn up - Google yourself. 

    I can understand the want to research a canidate as a hiring manager but be smart about it, would you ask this in an interview - if not, perhaps you shouldn't dig.  Also I agree with the previous comment that unless information is shared by the hiring manager that they could not have gathered from interview or resume that there is no way to know if that information played a role in the hiring process. 


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