Checking a marketing candidate's social profile: would you... and should you?
Karen Lloyd employer, HR
Are you one of the 84% of employers who will check a candidate’s social profile as part of the hiring process? The practice has become so commonplace over the last few years it’s almost standard. A warning however; you may be opening yourself and the company up to unnecessary risk under discrimination law.
When you are hiring marketing professionals, it is expected that marketers will have a presence on social media and that it would be carefully managed. A hiring manager may feel that they way a candidate goes about this reflects directly on their ability to do the role.
It will feel natural to check a potential employee’s LinkedIn profile as it a professional network. But increasingly Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are also seen as fair game if a candidate has a public profile. This isn’t illegal, but as an employer it does open you up to considerable risks.
Why would you check a profile?
The obvious one is to find any evidence of criminal or illicit behaviour – drug taking etc. However, if you choose to take out a background check, any unspent convictions will be highlighted here.
What you are more likely to find is photos of nights out, perhaps drunken or raucous behaviour. This is where you start getting into dangerous territory when it comes to judging people.
It is imperative that you are careful of screening according to your own social and moral code, as this can severely limit the diversity of your team.
Remember that a candidate’s personal and professional personas can be worlds apart – just because they can act a little silly on the weekend doesn’t mean they won’t do a fantastic job.
Other behaviour – trolling, offensive comments or racist behaviour is unfortunately all too common online these days. These attitudes will not fit with a company ethos and this will understandably cause a hiring manager to have second thoughts about a candidate. Just keep context in mind when judging any interactions.
What are the risks?
Firstly, discrimination claims! You are now aware of candidate’s protected characteristics – religion / age / sexual orientation / disability etc. which otherwise may not have been apparent. Making assumptions based on social media content and declining someone purely based on what you find can open you up to discrimination claims. Remember, you should select a candidate based on skills and experience only.
GDPR - it is not unusual in our experience for hiring managers to take it one step further. Contacting people you know who worked for the same company, to ask their opinion of the candidate. Be careful! We would not advise this approach; you are opening a can of worms with GDPR as well as ethics – using the data to let other people know the candidate is looking for a job, which could affect their current employment.
Diversity – it becomes hampered within a team if you end up judging people personally by your own yardstick, rather than looking at their professional skills and experience.
What should you be looking for and when?
We don’t recommend checking any other platforms other than LinkedIn. If you are determined to check social media however, then do so after you’ve met the candidate face to face. This will reduce your discrimination risk to a small degree. Perhaps use it as a last check prior to making an offer to the candidate.
When reviewing LinkedIn or a public Twitter account, you should be looking for management and content. Check that they are updated regularly, the candidate is sharing insightful, thoughtful and relevant content and on LinkedIn that they are active in relevant marketing or industry led groups.
What to do with the knowledge once you’ve gained it
Generally, it is considered good form to give the candidate a heads up that you will be looking. Any negative information should be treated as if you you’d discovered it from a CV or the interview.
There was a time when background checks were shocking and deemed intrusive – now we accept them as the norm. It may well be the case that social media will be the same over time. However, as usage increases and people get more savvy about the risks / public exposure it is likely more accounts will be locked down over time to restrict access.
Our advice is to keep your searching to professional platforms like LinkedIn and let a candidate’s personal platforms be just that, personal.