Author: Lehanne Bleumink, Gold Seal HR Services Manager.

In recent years it has become common practice to review social media profiles as part of the recruitment process to help assess suitability for the role. While this practice can provide an employer with additional information, assessing an applicant’s online profile can be dangerous – there are a number of things to be aware of.

Hidden dangers of social media screening
Social media users often present different versions of themselves depending on the platform. For example, the way they behave on a professional site such as LinkedIn, can differ greatly to that on a social networking site such as Facebook. It’s hard to compare the two, as a more casual platform such as Facebook or Instagram may be more familiar and chatty, rather than business-like and professional as it would be on LinkedIn.

It is important for the recruiter to remember the skills, level of professionalism and expertise that candidates demonstrate through the job application process and not be tempted to change their mind and form opinions based on what they see on social media.

Discriminatory decision making
There are questions that shouldn’t be asked during the hiring process to avoid discrimination. Asking about race, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, religion and other protected attributes in an interview or reference check is discriminatory behaviour.

By searching through a candidate’s social media accounts, an employer can unintentionally learn things about some of these protected attributes. It’s not only unethical to make decisions based on this information, it is also illegal. It is human nature for anything discovered on Facebook, for example, to influence decision making. Once something is seen, it can be very hard to ignore.

The practice of screening candidates on social media is not likely to stop any time soon. For those recruiters who choose to screen candidates in this way, consider informing the candidate of your intention to review their online profile. This may encourage a jobseeker to be careful in what they choose to show publicly.

It is important to realise that recruiters who make decisions based on what they see on social media can not only be unintentionally discriminating, they could also potentially be missing out on what ultimately could be a valuable employee.

For assistance on any of your HR/IR requirements – call Gold Seal on 03 9510 5100 or email