Should You Use Facebook to Pre-Screen Job Applicants?

As social networking sites rise in popularity, employers have additional options for recruiting and pre-screening job applicants. Almost two in five companies, or 37 percent, use social networking websites to research potential job candidates, according to a recent study performed by CareerBuilder.  With millions of Facebook users, it is becoming a go-to social media site for employers and recruiters to get to know their job applicants a little better, as well as use Facebook profile information to decide whether or not this is someone they would consider hiring. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to using Facebook as a pre-screening tool for job applicants, along with a few caveats.

Pro’s of Using Facebook to Pre-Screen Job Applicants

1) Extension of resume. A job applicant’s Facebook profile can act as an extension of their resume, by showing her passion and knowledge for certain skills and interests. For instance, a job candidate that is applying for a position at a veterinary office might show a variety of status updates, posts, and photos of working with animals; this validates their passion and credibility as someone who is interested in this type of work.

2) Character verification. A Facebook profile can showcase the character and personality traits of a job applicant, which may be an important aspect of hiring the right individual. Having skills and credentials is only the first step of finding a job candidate; this potential employee will also want to have other traits that a recruiter deems important, such as showing a high level of motivation, respect for others, and being a responsible individual.

3) Proven work ethic. In many cases, the Facebook page of a job applicant may hint towards having a strong work ethic based on their posts about previous employment and how they interact on a more professional level. In the case of an individual applying for a job in the marketing or advertising field, it might be important that this individual behaves in a professional manner even on their personal Facebook page or demonstrate the building of a network. For some job positions, maintaining a certain level of positive representation on social media sites is crucial.

Con’s of Using Facebook to Pre-Screen Job Applicants

1) Legal pitfalls. One of the biggest disadvantages to using Facebook to pre-screen job applicants is the legal implications. Making hiring decisions based upon a job applicant’s personal Facebook profile may potentially violate anti-discrimination laws, which protects certain classes of people. Anti-discrimination law states that employers may not discriminate against potential job candidates based on their marital status, race, religion, or disabilities. By viewing photos and personal information of job applicants on Facebook, employers must be careful not to make a decision that is in direct violation of anti-discrimination laws.

2) Profile inaccuracies. It is very possible that what looks like an individual’s legitimate Facebook profile, may not indeed be their page. Online hackers are able to tap into a person’s Facebook page and enter information or photos that do not belong to the individual, therefore making that profile inaccurate.  In addition, in many cases, individuals leave up old profiles on Facebook that have no relation to their current situation or lifestyle.

3) Personal life may not match business skills. A job applicant’s personal life does not always reflect his professional life. A disadvantage to using a Facebook profile for pre-screening applicants is that it the individual’s Facebook page typically conveys aspects of a person’s social and personal life; this does not necessarily mean they do not have the skills and experience required to be an excellent candidate.

While Facebook can be a helpful tool in determining the character of a potential job candidate, there are other factors to consider before using it as the sole reason to hire or reject an applicant. Weighing the pros and cons of using social media sites for pre-screening applicants is important when considering using it for employee decision making.