Social Media Icons in a CloudThe answer in most cases is YES, but you should be careful when doing so.  According to a survey conducted by Reppler, 91% of businesses are already using social media, in some form, to review candidates.  Since most companies appear to be doing so already, the question really becomes, how to effectively use social media without putting your business at risk.  You can learn a lot about a candidate by reviewing their LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Twitter Feed, etc., but you need to be very careful what information you consider.  Here are some important points to keep in mind as you review a candidate’s social media profile.

Have a policy and be consistent.  Any easy way to get yourself in trouble would be to only review social media profiles of certain candidates, or for certain positions.  You should have a clearly written policy that outlines which social media accounts to review and what you are looking for.

Consider waiting until after a face to face interview.  You don’t want it to appear as though you denied a candidate an interview based on age, gender, religion, etc.

Outsource.  It might be a good idea to have someone other than the hiring manager review the candidate’s profiles.  A human resource professional might have a better understanding of what information is relevant to the candidates and what information to avoid.  You could hire an outside company for this research or have an internal human resource employee handle it.

Let the candidate know.  You should disclose to candidates that you will be reviewing their profiles.  You might even want to have them sign an authorization before conducting your search.  It is very easy to “tag” someone these days.  There could be offensive material found that was not posted by the candidate.  They should have the opportunity to explain in situations like this.

Consider NOT screening candidates profiles at all.  Yes, you read that right.  Sure, there is a lot of information out there that can help you evaluate a candidate, but there is a lot of information that could hurt your business in the event a candidate is not hired.  Consider this scenario – An astronomy professor applied for a position at The University of Kentucky.  The position was given to someone else, and the candidate sued for discrimination.  A federal judge allowed the case to move forward and the University settled out of court; most likely for a large amount of money.  Why was the University in trouble – because they searched the candidate’s social profile and found articles suggesting he believed in Creationism, and he felt this is why he was passed over for the position.

Social media is a powerful tool.  As a company recruits and interviews candidates, social media can provide valuable information to help hiring managers make their decisions.  It’s important though to decide if the reward is greater than the risk, and if so take measures to minimize the risks involved.

For more information on using social media to screen candidates,  please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at or 800-367-8367.

Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.