Can Employers Use Social Media To Vet Job Applicants?

Nov 23, 2018
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Written by Jackie Olling

Whether you’re an employer or a job-seeker, there are many issues which surround social media and the workplace. Social media is a hub of information where people can find out the most intimate details of a user’s life. But how ethical is it to use this information to decide whether or not you’ll hire someone?

Here, we’ll provide some answers to the grey area surrounding when Employers Use Social Media to vet job applicants.

Social media – the new CV?

It’s understandable why employers are tempted to search for applicants on google or on Facebook. Indeed, 25% of Australian Employers Use Social Media to research job applicants. Information on social media allows the employer to see who the job applicant is outside of their professional persona. Social media also provides clues to a person’s interests and personality. This can also allow an employer to discern whether the person will fit their company culture. Yet, employers may not be able to find information on job applicants through social media. It’s common these days for job-seekers to display limited information or have their profiles under an alias so employers cannot find them.

There is little regulation that surrounds who can use social media and what they can use it for. This is no different for employers. Essentially, it’s not illegal for employers to search a candidate on social media – but it can give rise to other practices that are.

Discrimination

Employers need to be mindful that the information they’re uncovering will not give rise to discrimination. Social media reveals a lot of information about the way a person lives their life. This includes age, gender, sexual orientation, race and religion. An example is if an employer views a job applicant’s Facebook profile and sees they’re a certain age. If the employer decides not to hire the person because of this, it is discriminatory. Discrimination in the workplace is taken very seriously in Australia. It could also be discriminatory if an employer uses information gathered through social media to determine the applicant’s terms of employment. When Employers Use Social Media to gather information about candidates, they should tread with caution and consult with an employment lawyer before making any decisions.

Have the right policies

Although employers cannot be stopped from vetting applicants by using social media, workplaces can implement policies to mitigate the risk of issues arising. A discrimination policy outlines how a company will deal with instances where an employee is discriminated against – but why not also apply this to the hiring process?

More pertinently, a social media policy can provide guidelines on how employees can manage the social media accounts of the workplace, and how employees are to act on their own private channels. These policies will encourage managers to hire people based on their credentials, not the number of instagram followers they have.

Although it’s not recommended that employers search job applicants on social media, it can be too tempting to resist. If you do vet applicants by searching social media, be mindful of what perceptions you’re getting. Further, if you act on these, be careful that they’re not discriminatory.

Have more questions? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

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