What can you find out about your potential employees?
A recent discussion thread on Linked In started with a question about how entrepreneurs get to know more about their prospective staff before they employ them. The questioner referred to uncovering “hidden skeletons in their wardrobes” and asked if people use social networks to gather information.
The discussion that followed suggested that it is quite common for employers to use social networks to find out more about potential employees. However, none of the replies touched on the legality of using social networking sites for background research.
Key points to consider when using social media for candidate research
1. Linked In is classed as a professional networking site so peoples’ profiles are not seen as “personal data”. This makes Linked In a useful place to cross-reference the information on a candidate’s CV and also gives you a chance to review what, if anything, other people say about them.
2. Information on Facebook is classed as “personal data” under the Data Protection Act. You cannot “process” this information without a candidate’s consent. The experts at LawSpeed suggest that you can read a page but if you forward a link or print a copy for your files this would count as “processing”.
3. Facebook pages can contain details of “characteristics” which prospective employers cannot discuss with candidates (age, religion, sexual orientation etc). Some experts consider that this makes social media sites dangerous to use as the potential employer runs the risk of incurring discrimination claims. These people recommend that you state clearly that you do not use social networking sites to conduct background research on candidates.
Some of this might sound a little bit over-cautious but Germany is making the first moves to make it illegal to do research on potential employees on social media.
At Sue Rees Associates, we believe in researching our candidates but our view is that using someone’s Facebook page for information may overstep the mark. Do you agree? Why not email us to share your views?
Law Speed: Using Social Media – German ban
Linked In – discussion on Ambitious Owner Managers