Social Media Profiles and the Hiring Process

A hot tool but don't get burnt.

Aug 17, 2018

In the past, a resume, references, and an interview were the primary tools to evaluate potential candidates. Today, several more tools fill the hiring manager's tool bag, with social media profiles at the top of the list. 

In our technologically advanced society, it's rare to find anyone who's not "connected" to one or more social media platforms that allow the interaction with friends and family, promote a business, or find employment. The primary sites include LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+.

A robust and up-to-date profile is a valuable tool for employees seeking work, and helps employers and recruiters to glean more facts about a prospect. Studies and surveys reveal that almost 40% of employers say the number one thing they look for via social media is questionable behavior and content. Second on the list is searching for consistency with the applicant's resume. 

However, there's a fine line that relates to ethics and pros and cons when companies use this method to assess a prospective worker. Potential pitfalls exist for the candidate and employer when personal protected information accompanies a candidate's professional profile. Legal issues can arise for employers who hire based on protected information; likewise, the employee can lose a job opportunity for one wrong word or comment in their profile. You can easily violate discrimination laws, and expose your company to potential lawsuits

If proven, a business can be held legally and financially liable, and subject to a discrimination suit.  Gaskell v. Univ. of Kentucky, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124572 (E.D. Ky. Nov. 23, 2010) is a case where the University chose another less-qualified candidate because of Gaskell's personal religious views seen on his website.

The New Jersey Law Journal warns employers that "Although social media can be beneficial for this purpose, the law on what is permissible use by an employer is underdeveloped." Furthermore, they suggest that using candidates' social media profiles during the hiring process can carry legal ramifications.


One way recruiters try to get around legal issues is with micro-targeted recruitment ads. However, there are anti-discrimination laws in place that prohibit discrimination throughout the hiring practice, including guidelines on how to advertise a position.  It's worth your while to become familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. 

An example of unethical advertising practices is when employers use information from a candidate's social site to hire for a specific age, race, or social status.

For example, if your business places a paid ad with Facebook, you can select a targeted audience who are more likely to buy your product. The targets available are numerous; below is a small selection of segments.


Select Facebook Segments

  • Location
  • Gender
  • Education
  • Personal interests
  • Work
  • Location
  • Age
  • Race
  • Politics
  • Multicultural affinity
  • Marital status

When placing ads that mention a specific age, political view, or any of the above segments, you are discriminating. There are ongoing class action suits against large corporations in violation of discrimination laws.

To escape legal consequences, know the laws, such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and recognize when you are close to crossing a "red line." Perhaps it’s best to cease micro-targeting practices altogether but if you don’t, strive to use targeting that is inclusive. Lofton Staffing is committed to finding mutually ideal matches for both employers and employees – within legal guidelines. Since 1979, Lofton has built a reputation on providing staffing solutions that companies can rely on to make their businesses more efficient, cost-effective and profitable. Contact us today.

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