While it’s not a standard practice to consider potential employee’s social media presence during the application process, it might become so in the future as technology continues to improve and people spend more and more time interacting online. That was the focus of an ASIS International Information Asset Protection and Pre-Employment Screening Council (IAPPES) conference call. “It’s a reality that that data trail is going to start to be crunched and munched by computers and people are going to start making decisions on those things,” says Dr. Charles Handler, executive scientist for Logi-Serve, LLC. “And many of us psychologists are both thrilled and scared by this.”
Handler, who holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Louisiana State University, says this topic has been on his mind after reading an article about a new form of credit selection where some companies are predicting and giving credit to people based on their friends on Facebook and their friends’ credit scores. Handler says it’s only a matter of time until people in charge of making hiring decisions begin to do the same thing—using applicants’ LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to evaluate them, which could lead to consequences. They might be tempted to conclude that those with deadbeat friends may be more likely to be deadbeats, but “that’s kind of scary, because you can’t make those absolute assumptions,” he says. He cautions that using social media may not be the most rational way to evaluate whether someone is qualified to have a particular job.
It may also open an employer up to legal challenges, but the legal landscape in that regard has yet to be fully formed. This aspect of the problem wasn’t the focus of the conference call, but Security Management reached out to Les Rosen, an attorney and president of Employment Screening Resources, for some perspective on that.
Thirty six states have introduced laws, or have legislation pending, that prevent employers from requiring employees to provide them with their social media account passwords after they’re hired, but there is still a lack of legislation about using social media in the hiring process, says Rosen. And while there have been a few court cases involving employee use of social media after they have been hired and what employers can do, there have not been cases addressing the use of social media activity or content as a disqualifier in the hiring process, he explains.