Because the internet and social media are a rich source of information about prospective candidates, and social media is perceived as a forum in which individuals are likely to reveal a more complex picture of themselves, some organizations include a search of these sources as part of their background check. Since employers are obligated to disclose all information used in making a decision not to hire an individual, you should assess the benefits and risks of acquiring information through social media checks.
A potential benefit of social media/internet searches is the possibility that you could discover information regarding inappropriate behaviors that would not fit with your codes of conduct, including sexualized postings to or about minors, other forms of violence, and/or drug or alcohol abuse.
Potential Risks include:
- Finding information that cannot be used in the interviewing and hiring process*, such as:
- Religious affiliations
- Disability status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Attribution of information about another person with the same or similar name to the candidate.
- Inability to verify the source or accuracy of information posted about the candidate.
* These items are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1964, and other local laws. A candidate cannot be disqualified from a job based on this information alone, and when it is present, can make use of any other information legally challenging. For more information, see the USEEOC website: (p44, CTA) https://www.eeoc.gov/employers
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