With the rise of the internet and social media in particular, the rise in recruitment agencies and hiring managers vetting candidates by social media has been immense. According to a 2016 report from recruitment site CareerBuilder, out of more than 2,000 employers surveyed, around 60% used social media to screen candidates.
“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder, said at the time. “And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”
However, thanks to new recommendations from the European Union, it could soon be illegal for employers to snoop on the social media accounts of their potential employees. What is now an accepted part of many recruitment processes could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a ruling from an EU data protection working group that said that employers need “legal grounds” for checking workers’ personal accounts. As well as this, the working party also said that “any data collected from internet searches of potential candidates needs to be necessary and relevant to the performance of the job”.
Whilst these rulings from the European Union’s working party are non-binding, the recommendations made will undoubtedly be highly influential in the upcoming European Union General Data Protection Regulations, a Europe-wide data protection regulation that will come into force in May 2018. The new regulations will replace all member country’s current data protection laws such as the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply to any organisation in the world that processes data of European Union citizens. The reason for the new regulations is that the internet and social media has come a long way since when many of the regulations were written.
The Situation in the USA
In the USA, where they have strict hiring regulations for employers such as in the EU, factors such as race, gender or religion cannot be considered when assessing a candidate’s suitability. Many hiring managers in the US now don’t look at their potential candidate’s social media at all to avoid falling foul of a number of potential legal pitfalls.
Robert Blumberg, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles, said he never looks at social media profiles to investigate the backgrounds of attorneys who are candidates for jobs at his firm, Littler Mendelson PC.
“I don’t look at [candidates] on social media,” Blumberg said. “I could. I affirmatively choose not to, because I don’t really want to know that information. I think there are too many dangers. There are too many things that you shouldn’t know and shouldn’t be part of the hiring process.”
If the working party’s recommendations do become part of the new General Data Protection Regulations in the EU, it may be wise for all recruiters and hiring managers to do the same as Robert Blumberg.