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Social media: Learn your limits online
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Social media:

Learn your limits online

By Miranda Grace, FASPR, Physician Recruiter, Geisinger Health System

There are obvious benefits to using social media for recruitment. Not only do recruiters get the unique opportunity to reach passive candidates where they are, but social media has provided an inexpensive and timely mode of sharing information with candidates about new and potentially hard-to-fill positions. Yet, there are serious legal risks involved with using this platform to screen candidates. Recruiters and hiring managers are vulnerable to discrimination claims when merit is put into what is discovered online about a candidate. Examples could include a compromising photo or screen name, information that varies from a candidate’s CV, or any information indicating that the candidate has a disability. As physician recruiters, it is crucial that we know the risks associated with utilizing these tools before we and/or our employer, get caught up in a law suit that could have been avoided.

How do we determine when it is appropriate to use social media for recruitment? Utilizing the “source-versus-screen” rule is a good start. The practice of “social sourcing” is perfectly legal. In fact, according to a Jobsite survey, 92 percent of all US employers were sourcing candidates using social media in 2012. Networking with potential candidates on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is often encouraged by progressive employers who wish to have a strong social media presence. The water gets murky, however, when “social screening” comes into play. When a candidate’s eligibility is determined by information found online, recruiters can run into trouble.

A wealth of information that is potentially valuable, and at the same time risky, is shared on social networking sites daily. Utilizing this information to narrow down a list of candidates could prompt several legal issues that recruiters should be aware of. For example, a recruiter accesses a candidate’s Facebook profile before meeting the candidate in person and finds that he or she is disabled. Subsequently, the organization decides not to move forward with the candidate, for whatever reason. The candidate could claim that discriminatory behavior based on the disability was at play when determining which candidate to pursue, claiming that access to the Facebook profile with photos of the candidate in a wheelchair affected the consideration or the hiring decision. In this instance, what you know can hurt you. The key to utilizing screening information is how you utilize it.

Policies and procedures
In order to avoid the risks associated with social recruiting, a strong social media policy should be in place that details exactly how and when recruiters use this tool during the recruitment process. Linda Hollinshead, Esq, partner of Duane Morris LLP, recommends in her presentation, “Social Media — what can an employer do?”, that recruiters review only public profiles. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that applicants give permission before any pre-employment investigations take place. There are also legal risks involving the Stored Communication Act, the Common Law Invasion of Privacy, and Contractual Interference which can all stir up controversy and potentially, a lawsuit. In addition, Hollinshead urges recruiters to document whatever is considered from a social networking site and limit this information to the realm of HR. Eliminating hiring managers from the process is crucial. Lastly, it’s important to be consistent in your use of social media. Any variation could be threatening to you or your employer.

While it’s sensible to market positions and source candidates using social media, screening them online could be risky. Be sure to utilize a comprehensive social media policy and document all activities online involved with hiring, and if necessary, seek legal advice to avoid any adverse claims.

Hollinshead, Linda B. Social Media — what can an employer do? Webinar presented Oct. 23, 2012, by the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

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