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Caution should be used when researching job applicants' social media

Special to the Legal News

Published: March 17, 2020

Companies have long researched job applicants' social media accounts to learn more about their potential new employees' background a practice, attorneys say, that isn't unlawful, but should be used with caution.
Sara Jodka, a labor and employment lawyer for the Dickinson Wright law firm in Columbus, said the same legal rules for job interviews apply to social media screening of job applicants.
"If you can't ask or consider it in an interview, you can't look at it or consider because you saw it on social media," she said.
Employers should not be afraid to use social media, she said, but they need to know how to do it properly.
Jodka recommends that employers should designate someone outside of the decision-making process to review the job applicants' social media accounts.
The social media screener should then give decision makers a memo that includes only relevant information about the applicants, such as social media posts that contain negative comments about previous and current employers, foul language, grammatical errors and other poor judgment calls, she said.
Jodka also said some federal and state laws require that any information employers retrieved from a candidate's social media accounts should be retained in a hiring or personnel file.
Employers should avoid using social media if they cannot designate the screening tasks to someone who is not a decision maker, she advised.
"If there is no wall, I would say don't do it," Jodka said.
A 2018 survey by job listings website CareerBuilder.com found that 70 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates while 7 percent said they plan to start. Of the companies that conduct social media research, 57 percent of them responded that they have found content that caused them not to hire candidates.
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