In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed its investigation into whether or not an “Internet and social media background screening service used by employers in pre-employment background screening” complied with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The reporting agency in question, Social Intelligence, was deemed “a consumer reporting agency because it assembles or evaluates consumer report information that is furnished to third parties that use such information as a factor in establishing a consumer’s eligibility for employment.”
Taken out of legalese, this statement confirms that employers intent on issuing social media checks on employment candidates must comply with FCRA rules.
This means, when FCRA rules apply, employers will need to complete the following actions:
- Review the notice and authorization currently provided to applicants to ensure that these documents cover social media searches.
- If an applicant is selected for elimination from consideration based on the results of such a social media check—in whole or in part—be sure to receive a pre-adverse action notice that will supply the applicant with the same report received by the employer, or the FTC’s “A Summary Of Your Rights Under the FCRA.” Candidates have the right to dispute any alleged adverse information with the service provider that conducted the social check.
- Finally, after rejecting said applicant, release a final adverse action notice to the applicant, which should be written according to the language required by the FCRA.
However, the subtext of this news for employers is equally important as the rule-following.
According to a recent 2011 study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), as reported by the Workplace Privacy Counsel, 56 percent of employers rely on social media for recruitment purposes. The number of employers relying on social media checks to hire new associates has increased by 22 percent since 2008.
According to the same study, an additional 20 percent of employers who do not currently use social media for recruiting intend to do so at some point in the future.
The sites most used by employers for recruitment purposes are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (certainly makes you rethink that last tweet).
In any case, the SHRM survey doesn’t cover employers who conduct social media searches exclusively in-house, which are not subject to FCRA rules. The market for social media recruitment (and not simply the professional services who conduct them) is on the rise.
But how valuable is this information, really, for vetting possible candidates?
Philip Gordon, of Workplace Privacy Counsel, explains that the two major issues with social media recruitment are compliance and reliability. With compliance issues already briefly outlined, it’s time to question information objectivity and usefulness.
“Court systems, educational institutions, and employers, for example, have an inherent interest in maintaining accurate records for their own legitimate business purposes. By contrast, social media are replete with false, doctored, and biased information about others,” writes Gordon.
“Perhaps more importantly, social media posts apparently created by the author can be forged. I have recently counseled clients on two separate occasions where employees denied having posted on their Facebook wall negative information about the employer or co-workers, credibly claiming that others had stolen their log-in credentials or hacked into their account.”
So what’s left to believe these days?
If your firm decides it still wants to use social media for a recruitment tool, ask yourself what answers you’re hoping to unearth via the Internet. If they’re of a truly personal nature, is this information legal to obtain or consider during an application?
If your goal is professional, are there other, traditional ways to procure more reliable credentials—references, letters of referral, university transcripts, for example—that are less invasive?
Technology is a vital asset to a law firm. But, if the information you seek about potential candidates is more tangential in nature—simply a way of finding a few candidates to that stand out—one-on-one interactions and interviews are often underestimated tools in today’s world of digital profiles.
Just something to consider in between updating your blog.
There are a lot of benefits to online recruitment. Attend C4CM‘s course, “Facebook Recruiting Made Easy: How to Find Talent Today with Social Media” to learn more.