With advancing technology and the increasing use of social media, the fine line between work and play is continuing to thin. The virtual world has allowed individuals to expand both social and professional networks as well as represent themselves in more creative and vocal manners. Needless to say, employers are catching on and are beginning to use social networking sites to their advantage. However, can a user’s profile hurt him or her in their candidacy for a job promotion?
The answer is yes – but only under certain conditions.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an online presence can provide new opportunities as well as raise new concerns. A study conducted in 2013 found that almost a third of all US employers ran an online search on potential candidates prior to beginning the hiring process. Another survey released in 2013 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that approximately 77 percent of companies reported utilizing social networking sites to recruit candidates – a 40 percent increase from those surveyed in 2008. Without a doubt, the use of social media is growing and has a substantial impact on the work force. There are several great uses for social media from an employer’s perspective including a way to engage employees and disseminate company-wide information, marketing to consumers, crises management, and of course, recruiting new employees. However, improper use of information found on an individual’s personal account can lead to illegalities and may be harder to avoid than one thinks.
Title VII under the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects all individuals from employer discrimination despite their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin. Once an employer chooses to search a candidate’s social media profile, a judge will assume that the employer is aware of that person’s protected characteristics under Title VII. Individuals tend to supply their social media accounts with more information than what they address on their resumes’ or even provide in an interview. Within just a few seconds of reviewing a candidate’s social profile, an employer can learn about the candidate’s relationship status, whether they are disabled, who they are voting for, their general appearance, where they are from, etc.
So what can an employer and what do employers often discriminate against when searching major social networking sites? Any reference to illegal drugs or alcohol, posts with profanity or sexual activity, improper spelling and grammar, and political affiliations are all on the list. Many HR managers recommend that in order to avoid any subconscious discrimination, if an employer chooses to review their candidates’ social media accounts, they should do so only after meeting them face-to-face. Employers should also check every candidate’s account if they decide to check one at all.
One point is certain – social media in human resource management is here to stay, but employers should be cautious on how to utilize networking sites as an aid and not a hindrance.