What are some of the ethical and legal aspects of using Social Media for profiling potential job candidates? How is the information gathered accessed, used, stored and protected? What are the risk factors involved?
When recruiters turn to invalidated processes for research on candidates, it is unclear if the recruiters are meeting ethical standards regarding impacts on human well-being, fairness, justice, humanity and decency. Applicants who are asked to provide prospective employers access to personal and private Social Media sites may not feel that they have the option to deny the prospective employers access. They are likely to feel that denial will eliminate them from consideration for the position. This puts the recruiter in a position of power such that they “risk violating both the dignity and integrity of potential employees as well as conferring feelings of distrust (Jeske and Shultz, 2015). As candidates for employment, individuals have no organizational representatives advocating their interests. Were there such organizations, I feel it would be highly unlikely that Social Media profiling would be used in recruitment. Namely, there are no studies that confirm the efficacy of using Social Media profiling in correlation to successful hiring and job performance. This really opens up the door to legal aspects. I feel that employers have no interest in efficacy studies until lawsuits force them to take note. And there is no money in conducting efficacy studies until eventual lawsuits regarding using Social Media for recruitment require employers can show proof of reason for this practice.
In connection with legal issues, discrimination issues are some of the forefront concerns. Individuals, employment candidates, are aware of Human Resource Social Media screening and may hide personal aspects about themselves such as minority status, age disability or sexual orientation. Aspects for which they may fear they could be discriminated against by prospective employers. Further, individuals may tailor their profiles to highlight aspects that are not truly indicative of the individual, but conform to what they believe employers want to see, such as membership to organizations, affiliations with any group. Social Media profiles for prospective employees become more homogeneous, diminishing any useful assessment of the individual based on their Social Media profiles.
It seems as if looking into an individual’s personal Social Media profile exemplifies looking into aspects which employers are not supposed to be assessing. Not only in discrimination cases, but in general, most employers prefer that employees keep their personal lives separate from their work lives. It is hypocrisy for employers to then feel free to look into personal aspects of a prospective employee’s life that should have no bearing on their work life?
North Carolina is an At-Will Employment state, which pretty much gives employers complete freedom to hire and fire employees with or without cause. However, there have been slight efforts to provide employees and potential employees minimal protections. Employee privacy laws in North Carolina states:
“Employers cannot fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee, or discharge or otherwise discriminate against any employee regarding compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the prospective employee or the employee engages in or has engaged in the lawful use of lawful products if the activity:
– Occurs off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours.
– Does not adversely affect:
-the employee’s job performance:
-the employee’s ability to properly fulfill the responsibilities of the position; or
-the safety of other employees.”
(OFF-DUTY USE OF LAWFUL PRODUCTS: N.C. GEN. STAT. § 95-28.2)
However, the law goes on to state that employers are not held responsible if they fail to hire or fire an individual for engaging in lawful activities outside of work IF the employer deems those activities to negatively impact the business. And there are no requirements for the employee to be made aware of or to agree to those terms prior to termination or refusal to hire.
So basically a company is free to interpret a candidate’s Social Media profile without fear of reprisal for discrimination. Even if it is not deliberate, it is unlikely that without a standardized process, those in the position of making decisions based on Social Media profiles are totally unbiased. It is more likely that “unconscious beliefs, comparisons and stereotypes about what people post online can also shape their decisions” (Jeske and Shultz, 2015).
And how are HR managers trained for these evaluations? What standardizations must be met if any? And as it has yet to be proven, what is inferred about a job candidate from their Social Media profile may have no reflection on their employment performance.
In terms of security, there are a lot of questions and not so many answers. When a candidate does agree to provide access and logins to Social Media profiles, who is actually using that information? How is it stored and protected? Worst case scenario, a candidate may unwittingly aid in industrial espionage as they could be providing access to sensitive information between companies.
In conclusion, I feel that more care needs to be put into the validity of the using Social Media profiles as screening measures for potential employment candidates. It is invasive and can be demeaning for the candidate, while there is no firm proof of the efficacy of such measures in the first place. “Without well-documented evidence for validity, the conclusions drawn by managers on the basis of profile searches may be tenuous at best and might furthermore result in undocumented discriminatory actions” (Brown and Vaughn, 2011).
Brown VR and Vaughn ED (2011) The writing on the (Facebook) wall: the use of social networking sites in hiring decisions. Journal of Business and Psychology 26: 219-25
GILLESKIE, ALICIA A., KIMBERLY J. KORANDO, SMITH, ANDERSON, BLOUNT, DORSETT, MITCHELL & JERNIGAN, L.L.P., and PRACTICAL LAW LABOR & EMPLOYMENT. “North Carolina.” SpringerReference (n.d.): n. pag. PRACTICAL LAW LABOR & EMPLOYMENT. Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan Smith, 2015. Web. 25 May 2016.
Jeske, Debora, and Kenneth S. Shultz. “Using Social Media Content for Screening in Recruitment and Selection: Pros and Cons.” Work, Employment and Society 0950017015613746 (2015): 1-12. Wes.sagepub.com. Web. 25 May 2016.