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Social Media in Hiring Decisions may be able to discover the “real” person applying for a job with you by viewing the person’s postings on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. But there are questions about whether you should, or even can, do this.

What you can and cannot do with public postings
It’s not difficult to track down a person who has tweeted or made other postings open for anyone to read. The dilemma is how to use the information you learn from social media—wisely and legally.

It’s a fact that today hiring managers and recruiters are using social media information. Go-Gulf, a web solutions company, posted some interesting statistics on how the information is being used.

When you explore a job applicant’s social media presence, here are some issues to consider:

  • Is it a good idea to make initial determinations based on what you see online? For example, if postings are foul-mouthed, do you even want to interview this person? Is it better to wait until you’ve met the job candidate before searching online? Continuing the example, the person may use appropriate language in the workplace; if you’d never interviewed the person you wouldn’t know this.
  • What’s legal? Federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination do not stop at social media gateways. You cannot use online information in a discriminatory manner. For example, if you find out a person’s religion in a posting, you cannot use this information to discriminate against the applicant.

Private postings
Can you ask a job applicant for his/her username and password on social media sites to read private postings? It depends where you’re located. Six states (Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) have barred this action (and Maine has authorized a study on it). As of mid-November, similar legislation is pending in more than two dozen states.

Final thoughts
In my view, it’s probably wise to use information gleaned from social media to supplement rather than supplant a resume and personal interview. The added information may display passion for a particular type of work, good moral character, or other factors that may be a tipping point in making a job offer.

Be sure to keep records of any postings you use in the hiring process. And ask an employment law attorney to review your hiring practices so you know you’re operating within the law.