Research carried out by the CIPD has found that two out of five employers look at an applicant’s online activity or profiles on sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during recruitment. A separate survey by Acas found that 40% of hirers would make greater use of social media in the future. With such wide use of social media during recruitment, and no specific rules on this, there is the potential for disputes and misuse.
To avoid any challenges when carrying this out, employers should make applicants aware at an early stage that these searches may occur during the recruitment process and information may be collected from these sites. Applicants have the right to protect the processing of their personal information, under the Data Protection Act, but it is likely that searches carried out to find information relating to the employment decision are unlikely to be caught by this, especially where they are carried out on the public sections of online profiles.
Looking at a candidate’s online profile is not unlawful but care should be taken to not be discriminatory in any decisions made from this. For example, if the ‘relationship’ information on Facebook causes you to not employ a person because of their sexual orientation this will be unlawful discrimination.
CIPD guidance lays out some helpful tips for employers who wish to use social media to carry out these kind of online searches. These include:
- Take reasonable steps to check the accuracy of information received online
- Distinguish between social media for private and professional use – for example, information obtained from a professional LinkedIn site will be more suitable to assess the applicant than information on a completely private Facebook page
- Only use social media searches to look at specific information rather than just a general fishing exercise. Information to be looked at and collected should relate to the applicant’s suitability for the role, personal capabilities and skills, education and experience.
Applicants should be given an opportunity to respond to material found online where it is being used as part of the decision-making process.
Employers should consider developing a clear policy on the use of social media during recruitment. Not only will this safeguard disputes over information being sourced but it will also allow those who are looking at applicant’s profiles to know what they can and cannot access, for example, which sites, what information and why.If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.