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How to perform ethical and legal social media vetting

How to perform ethical and legal social media vetting

In today’s world of work, more professionals understand the implications their public social media profiles have not only on their personal brand, but also how it can be seen as an extension of the company for which they work. The ease in which information about a person, and their points of view, has allowed the public a certain power over enterprises concerning the kind of people they employ. In order to avoid the risk of being put under the magnifying glass by a politically-conscious generation, many managers are leveraging social media vetting as part of their hiring processes.

The merge between an individual’s personal and professional life can tread a boundary of ethics. According to recent research by YouGov, up to 80% of employers are likely to check a candidate's social media accounts as part of their recruitment and onboarding procedure. For managers to conduct both a fair and legal screening process, as well as target a potentially perfect candidate, they therefore need to be aware of the ethical foundations of social media vetting.

Here are the main aspects of the process that hiring managers need to consider in order to carry out an objective vetting process.

The primary intention of screening

Because hiring decisions should be targeted on finding information relevant to the decision of offering employment, it is therefore the employer’s responsibility to avoid personal bias and remain compliant with discrimination and data privacy laws.

Speaking to Vice, Bianca Lager, president at Social Intelligence, a US Federal Trade Commission-regulated company that offers social media screening on behalf of clients, says that their screening searches for four categories of content: “racism/intolerance, potentially violent, potentially illegal, sexually explicit.” She additionally clarifies that social media-vetting companies are responsible for ensuring “candidates are not rejected based on protected things like religion, political beliefs, disability, sexual orientation”.

Hold everyone to the same standards

Whilst millennial and Gen Z candidates are the most proficient consumers of social media, it is nevertheless in the employer’s best interest to screen all their candidates, no matter their age. The same applies to different job roles; the screening process should not depend on the visibility or seniority of neither the job title nor the industry.


Hiring managers have a responsibility to inform their candidates of the intention to go through their social media in order to make for a thorough recruitment process. Applicants should be aware by what standards they are being assessed and judged, as well as given ample opportunities to respond to and explain any concerns raised during the process.

Data Laws

Following from the importance of transparency, it is therefore advised that employers receive clear consent from the applicant to check their social media. With the integration of GDPR in UK law, personal data collected during the recruitment process should not be kept longer than necessary where the individual was not hired - the Information Commissioner’s Office recommends that this be six months.

Implementing Policies and Training

Creating a standardized vetting policy before carrying it out will ensure that members of the recruiting team will be assessing each candidate to the same degree. For example, clearly stating which social media to target will avoid some recruiters from unfairly digging too far into their personal life and consequentially triggering harmful bias. Hiring managers can even carry out training for vetting policies in order to reassure them of the respective company’s rules and requirements.

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