What Are The Risks Of Social Media When Applying For A Job?


Posted by: Brookside Admin

In today’s world, social media is everywhere. There are so many different social media platforms that it can be hard to keep up with the latest trends and who is using what site. For most of us, it is a way to keep up with friends and family around the world, to find other people who have the same interests, and so on. It can be a great tool for finding jobs, houses, and other opportunities as well. Yet, for employers, it can also be a way to check out a potential candidate for a job.

We have all heard horror stories about an employee posting something on social media and it getting back to their boss. You may have even heard about someone being denied a job because of what they have posted on their social media accounts. However, did you know that in many states around the US, an employer runs a huge risk in looking at a person’s private social media account to determine if they will hire them or not? In some states, such as Oklahoma, an employer cannot legally gain access to a password for a private social media accounts. (To read more about this new law, read our article titled “New Oklahoma Law Prohibits Employer Access For Private Social Media Accounts”.)

In 2013, Carnegie Mellon did a study that shed light on social media and employment. They found that anywhere between one-tenth to one-third of all employers will search social media for information about a potential candidate. However, this is not the only thing that the study revealed about social media and employers, it also showed how these employers are opening their doors to liability and lawsuits for discrimination. Here are other things that this study found:

Employers Are Not Always Deterred By Liability Or Risks

The researchers found that not all employers are worried about the risks of using social media information to determine the eligibility of a candidate. To perform this study, the researchers sent out over 4,000 resumes for jobs, all with one of four different false names. These resumes went out to employers that had over 15 employees across the US. Each of the names had a special Facebook profile created for it. All four profiles had references to a certain lifestyle per “person”, which included gay, straight, Christian, and Muslim references.

They found that candidates who referenced that they held a Muslim affiliation on social media were not getting the follow up calls; only two percent of those resumes for this profile got follow up calls. However, the profile that showed references for Christian beliefs received a larger number of follow up calls; around seventeen percent. They did find that a profile’s sexual orientation made no difference.

Here is what they gathered from this information and experiment: it is not the fact that the employers simply looked at the social media accounts but the fact that they used information there, religion in the study, to base their determination for hiring on. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars any employer from making a decision on hiring a candidate on the basis of religion, gender, national origin, or race. So, the practice of an employer using the religious information found on a Facebook page would open the employer up for a lawsuit. Yet, this did not seem to deter the employers from doing it.

Keeping The Hiring Process Legal

As a job seeker, keep in mind that according to Title VII of the Civil Rights act, a potential employer cannot use certain information, such as religion, race, gender, or national origin in their hiring decision. Also, in some states like Oklahoma, they cannot ask you for your personal passwords for social media accounts. There are also other questions that a potential employer is not allowed to ask, such as your age, your marital status, disability information, or weight.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the hiring process, contact us today for a free consultation.

Other great articles on our site:

Just What Is A Hostile Work Environment?

How Social Media Can Damage A Case