Preemployment Screening and Social Media

By Megan Gates

“The legal landscape leaves employers largely without clear direction other than the password laws, so employers need to apply existing laws to determine risk,” Rosen says, adding that it can take a while for a body of law to emerge, especially with new technology. So “employers need to see a number of cases from different jurisdictions before a clear pattern is established.”

But companies don’t appear to be waiting. Even as far back as 2011, according to a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, 30 percent indicated that they used “social networking information to disqualify job candidates,” according to, a white paper written by Employment Screening Resources in 2012. The paper also noted that at that time, there had been no court decisions on the issue of using an applicant’s Internet presence as a factor in the hiring process.

Instead of using social media activity as a disqualifier, however, Handler says that companies need to hold all of their employment screening tools to a higher standard and ensure that applicants are being evaluated in a standardized way that tests the skills that are critical to successful job performance. To do this, Handler, recommends that all employers use some form of pre-employment screening tests that allow them to develop scenarios, or tests, for applicants to take to see how they react in certain situations and how they could be expected to perform in the work environment.

These tests aren’t 100 percent accurate, but Handler says that, even with limited accuracy, they can help employers sort through applicants in a standardized method and provide a return on investment. Screening is a four-step process for Handler, with the first defining what you want the screening tool to measure, the second developing a method that tests that ability that you want to measure, the third compiling the data in an understandable format using algorithms to see how candidates measure up against one another, and the fourth using that data to make an informed hiring decision.

“The bottom line is you’ve got to choose good measures that map onto the definition of what you are trying to measure, and then you’ve got to use that data to support the decision making,” Handler emphasizes, adding that those in charge of hiring don’t always follow this process. “I’ve seen it too many times where the first two steps are done and then, you know there’s no support for change management needed, or buy-in needed, from the decision makers and the data that’s been collected and all that work goes for naught.”


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