Check Facebook Activity After (Not Before) You Interview in Business and at Work


I read a great article within the past few weeks authored by a business owner stunned by the volume of unqualified candidates applying to the owner’s jobs. Not at all stunning to me – I started my HR career more than 25 years ago drowning in unqualified snail-mail applications, and technology has not improved the present-day experience for either hiring authorities or applicants.

One applicant-screening task the owner engaged in caught my attention in particular: that they Google and check candidate social media activity even before making first interview contact, as a time-saver; more specifically, using information and photos they found in an applicant’s social media activity deemed by the owner as questionable. E.g., the applicant’s frequent fun with alcohol on their own time, arrests (not job-related felony convictions), etc. While the owner said in their article that they don’t necessarily rule out a candidate because of such activity, sometimes they did rule out candidates for this reason, as they were concerned especially with how an applicant would professionally interact with the owner’s clients – or not.

As outlined in this Business News Daily article, such candidate social media checking falls into the background check category – for the majority of employers, background checks compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, EEOC guidelines for background checks and bonafide job responsibilities and requirements (as well as state and local Ban-The-Box regulations) should occur after an offer has been tendered and before the new hire’s first day at work – not before the employer interviews the candidate.

Otherwise, an employer runs the risk of of discrimination complaint / compliance exposure on the part of candidates not hired by the employer.

And even in the context of a properly timed background check after a candidate interviews for a job: candidates are legitimately free to consume alcohol when not at work; and arrests cannot be used as a reason for not hiring a candidate.  Related guidance from the EEOC on how employers should conduct background checks to avoid discriminating against applicants can be found at the EEOC’s website.

Bottom line: checking candidates’ social media activity carries the potential of creating compliance exposure for the employer.

What steps do you take to minimize compliance exposure when checking candidates’ social media activity in business and at work?

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