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Should You Research Job Candidates on Social Media?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 23, 2016 10:56 AM

You have an opening at your firm. You've listed the position, received dozens of applications, and focused in on a few qualified candidates.

Now, should you track them down on social media?

Everyone Is Looking at Social Media

Sixty percent of employers use social media to research potential hires, according to a survey by CareerBuilder. That makes some sense. After all, someone's online personality can be quite different from the persona they present in an interview. Do they constantly complain about their bosses? Go on racist tirades? Get wasted every night? Their social media accounts might let you know.

But social media research isn't just about screening out the bad candidates. It can also help confirm that the good ones are good. A third of employers who researched candidates' social media found info that caused them to hire a candidate, according to CareerBuilder. Employers were impressed when a candidate's Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, for example, conveyed a professional image, showed well-rounded interests, or demonstrated good communication skills.

Want to Really Know Your Candidates? Perform a Real Background Check.

Social media research can help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge of a candidate. But it's no replacement for real, thorough research -- no matter how impressive or innocuous a candidate's Facebook profile is. You'll still want to check references, speak with old employers, verify credentials, and run an actual background check.

You'll want to make sure, too, that if you're checking in on candidate's social media, you're not crossing any legal lines. Social media can easily reveal qualities that you're not allowed to consider in most cases, like a candidate's age, ethnicity, gender, and the like. "If you choose to review social media as part of your hiring practices, it's a better practice to wait until after you've met a candidate face to face," according to David Baffa, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw. That way, "you are less likely to be accused of making snap selection decisions or of relying on protected characteristics evident from a social network profile."

Have an open position at your law firm? Post the job for free on Indeed, or search local candidate resumes.

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