Shannon Tinker

Shannon Tinker

Employers Beware:
When Social Media Says Too Much…

By Shannon Tinker

This month, Redfish explores the importance of background checks and references before extending a candidate a job offer. Responsible hiring decisions usually include basic steps to double-check that a candidate’s credentials are legit.  With an applicant’s consent, employers can quickly get reports about a candidate’s credit and criminal record, and this is perfectly legal.

In addition to old school, traditional background and reference checks, employers now have access to data that would make even the most seasoned Private Investigator blush.  Social media has opened the playing field making it fairly easy to gather personal information about most of the computer using public.  Employers can learn a lot about a job seeker through her online profile, in fact, if they’re not careful, they can learn too much.

Employers are well aware of discrimination laws and the importance of being an Equal Opportunity Employer.  Gone are the days of asking an interviewee his age, sexual orientation or about his religious beliefs.  Strangely enough, it is now easier than ever to secretly “stumble” upon this personal information.  We’ve entered “the Social Media Days” and a quick trip to Facebook or Twitter reveals what your candidate ate for breakfast this morning and a video of his weekend camping trip, keg stands and all. We now live in a time when serial over-sharers give update statuses as often as they breathe.

Employers would be wise to think twice about how social media plays into their hiring and recruiting practices.  Some companies have even gone so far as to implement social media “policies” that dictate how social media should be used for staffing.  While investigating a candidate through social media may seem inherently under the radar, employers need to be certain that they are using the information they gather appropriately, ethically and legally.

In a recent guest blog on, Rob Pickell, Senior Vice President at HireRight suggests that social media should be used for sourcing candidates rather than for screening them.  This is a helpful differentiator and a good way to evaluate your intention before hopping online.

Using Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to search for candidates that meet your criteria is good recruiting.  However, turning to Facebook to establish if the qualified candidate you interviewed yesterday is a family man, single, or has a compelling book list, crosses ethical and legal lines.  In this case, your intention is to screen a candidate based on personal information that is irrelevant to the job. This my friend, is good old fashion discrimination, cyber style.

About the Author:

Guest blogger, Shannon Tinker, successfully recruited for over a decade in various high tech fields. She is a multifaceted writer who entertains in her blog Reinventing Tinks on coming to terms with post-burn out. Shannon’s professional writings encompass subjects on hiring, interviewing, talent management, and other recruiting-related subjects.

See all Shannon’s articles.