SHRM Survey Finds Employers Wary of Using Social Networking Websites and Online Search Engines to Screen Job Candidates

As part of a series of surveys from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) focusing on the use of social media in the workplace, ‘SHRM Survey Findings: The Use of Social Networking Websites and Online Search Engines in Screening Job Candidates’ centered on how organizations use social networking websites and online search engines as a tool for screening potential job candidates. Contrary to popular belief, the SHRM survey found only slightly more than one-quarter (26 percent) of organizations indicated they used online search engines such as Google and Yahoo to screen job candidates during the hiring process while even fewer organizations (18 percent) used social networking websites like Facebook and LinkedIn for that purpose.

Conversely, the SHRM survey found that close to two-thirds (64 percent) of organizations had never used online search engines to screen job candidates or used them in the past but no longer did so, while more than two-thirds (71 percent) of organizations had never used social networking websites to screen job candidates or used them in the past but no longer did so. The reasons why some organizations did not use social networking websites to screen job candidates included the following:

  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of organizations indicated they did not used social networking websites due to concerns about the legal risks/discovering information about protected characteristics such as age, race, gender, and religious affiliation.
  • Nearly one half (48 percent) of organizations did not use these sites because they could not verify with confidence the information from the social networking website pages of job candidates, an increase from 43 percent in 2008.
  • Another 45 percent of organizations indicated that the information found on the social networking sites may not be relevant to a job candidate’s work-related potential or performance, also an increase from 36 percent in 2008.

The survey also revealed a significant increase in the prevalence of formal or informal policies regarding the use of social networking websites to screen candidates over the past three years. While 72 percent of organizations had no formal or informal policies regarding the use of social networking websites for job screening in 2008, this figure has dropped to 56 percent in the recent survey. In addition, 29 percent of organizations plan to implement a formal policy in the next 12 months, up from 11 percent in 2008.

As for how many organizations disqualified candidates based on information found by online search engines or social networking websites, of the small percentage of organizations that used such information only 15 percent of this group indicated that they used online search engine information to disqualify job candidates while 30 percent indicated they used social networking information to disqualify job candidates.

The ‘SHRM Survey Findings: The Use of Social Networking Websites and Online Search Engines in Screening Job Candidates’ surveyed over 500 randomly selected HR professionals with the job function of recruiting or staffing and took place between December 2010 to February 2011 and has a margin of error of +/- 4%. The SHRM survey is available by clicking this link. The 2008 data was taken from ‘SHRM Staffing Research: Online technologies and Their Impact on Recruitment Strategies’ (July-September 2008).

An earlier ESR News blog, ‘FTC Verifies Internet Background Checks from Consumer Reporting Agencies Subject to Rules of Fair Credit Reporting Act,’ reported that background checks using social media information must follow the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) rules regulating the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information. 

A June 2011 blog on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, ‘The Fair Credit Reporting Act & Social Media: What Businesses Should Know,’ indicated that background checks using information found with online search engines and on social networking sites must follow the same FCRA rules that apply to the more traditional information – employment and salary history, criminal records, and credit reports – that FCRA compliant background screening firms and employers have used in the past. The FTC blog is available by clicking this link.

For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions.  ESR is one of a select few firms accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Pages/TheUseofSocialNetworkingWebsitesandOnlineSearchEnginesinScreeningJobCandidates.aspx.