Be a recruiter, not a stalker

Social media research has become its own ‘accepted’ step in the recruitment process, but it’s one that should be treated with caution by employers.

You’ve waded through countless resumes to get to this point – a shortlist of jobseekers that, on paper, seem suitable for the role. The next step? These days it isn’t setting up interviews – it’s plugging their name into Google and seeing what comes up.

Many employers and recruiters now openly admit to checking the online footprint of potential employees before making a decision to hire. In fact, a new study by researchers at Queensland University of Technology suggests about 55 per cent of organisations now have written policies governing their use of online ‘profiling’.

Profiling checks range from conducting a quick search for a person’s name on Google and surreptitiously looking at their social media accounts through to actually asking candidates for their Facebook log-in details prior to the job interview (yes, it’s happened).

The QUT study, which was based on a survey of 2000 employees across a range of industries, showed that around 27 per cent of participants had either witnessed or heard about an employer using online information to directly influence a hiring decision.

Certainly, a check of a person’s social media profile can give an immediate sense of their values and morals. With so many risks for businesses linked to employees’ use of the web – including online bullying, brand damage and leakage of sensitive data – it’s perhaps not surprising that modern recruiters consider it an essential and defensible step in the hiring process.

Legally and ethically, though profiling is still a relatively new and highly contested practice, and just because it seems to have become ‘normalised’ within modern recruiting doesn’t mean you should become complacent about its risks.

From a legal perspective, the General Protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees or prospective employees on any discriminatory ground. These grounds include race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, family or carer’s responsibilities and many more.

While these characteristics may be immediately evident in a candidate’s social media profile, basing a recruitment decision on this can have costly implications for a business. Employers may be fined up to $54,000 per breach, not to mention the untold cost of reputational damage from a public proceeding.

►The recruitment process can be a minefield of risk – protect yourself at the start and with CCI’s Entry Level membership.

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