Employers and Recruiters often turn to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to screen candidates throughout the recruitment process – but are we taking things too far?

Recruiters and potential employers spend a lot time researching candidates on LinkedIn. It is a fantastic tool for finding out more about the candidate, ranging from recommendations and endorsements to specific projects they have worked on. However if a recruiter chooses to start researching the candidate on social networks that are less professionally biased, it could be seen as taking a step to far into their private lives.

We all live in the digital age, the line between private and public gets blurred quite frequently.

The Internet offers a gold mine of information about potential new employees, but as social media continues to grow in popularity it creates the challenge for employers and recruiters’ determining which information is acceptable for screening purposes and which is just an invasion of privacy.

The danger of using social media as a screening tool is discrimination as candidates no longer have to share personal information that could be used to potentially discriminate against them such as race, age, religion, gender, address, number of dependants and health status – so although this information might not have been viewed on a CV or shared in an interview, you could determine most of it by visiting the persons facebook page.

Although social media screening is pervasive, it is a relatively new phenomenon, and many companies lack clear guidelines about how and when it should be used and this is raising questions about whether the practice violates any antidiscrimination laws. Companies that don’t have formal processes regarding the use of social media for selection may put themselves at risk of legal complaints because of inconsistent practices.

The most important thing is to ensure that the information obtained from an applicant’s social media profile actually tells a company relevant information about the applicant’s fitness for the position as well as whether the interpretation of that information is correct.

Bottom line is that it is important for users, whether they are looking for a job or building up their professional reputation, to manage their online image across the different social networks they use and that the image portrayed is the one you want a prospective employer to see.

And for companies, although social media can provide subtle clues into a candidates work style, personality and culture fit, the recommended practice would still be a face to face interview that will allow the candidate to respond on some of the aspects that has negatively influenced their application through the online screening you have done.