SHRM on Social Media Screening in 2017

Policies and practices for human resources are ever-changing, with hiring decisions increasingly based on social media screening and aggregate data.  While the human element is still a pervasive factor in hiring, we’ve seen an indisputable rise in online tools to screen people. According to CareerBuilder, social media screening has gone up by 500% since 2006, with 60% of employers checking peoples’ online profiles during the recruiting and hiring process. This number will only rise. And now, for the first time, the industry has policies on how to do social screening. This is a big deal.

The release of these guidelines is a huge development for the support of social media screening

For several years, HR departments have had the tools of social screening at their disposal but lacked a consistent framework for applying them. Now, thanks to an industry authority, we finally have the beginnings of a policy to follow. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently released a report on “2017 Employment Screening Trends” which provides some ideas for best practices. It states “more organizations will develop formal policies for how searches will be executed, and who will conduct them and how the information will be reviewed”. The release of these guidelines is a huge development for the support of social media screening, particularly by third-party services like Fama.

The fact that SHRM is voicing support for screening is not only a momentous occasion for us and our industry; it also says a lot about where HR is going. Social screening is becoming not only the norm; it’s now one of the most important criteria in hiring. HR requires the same scrutiny as it did before the social media age. This means transparency, compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and consistent, precise criteria that lets you scan for job-related factors on candidates’ social media profiles that safeguards you and your potential hires from discriminatory, unethical behavior. Specifically, SHRM recommends working with a third-party screening service to protect against subjective bias and legal risk. These vendors, including Fama, will only present information relevant to the search and in compliance with FCRA.

In following these new guidelines you can stand out as leader in your field

Technology is outpacing the law here, and it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, not only in the industry, but at your company, and within your department. We can’t understate how crucial this development is; these guidelines are a signal in the HR industry that social screening is more important than ever. In following these new guidelines you can stand out as leader in your field, with an edge on your competitors and the peace of mind in knowing that you are following best practices and protecting potential and employees and your own organization in the hiring process. Let us know if you want to talk more about this changing HR climate and what you can do to remain ahead of the pack, and what we can do to help.

Employee Turnover: The Ripple Effect

Every time an employee leaves a company, voluntarily or involuntarily, it has larger implications than just the loss of one person. An article on the HR blog of Zane Benefits details the real cost of losing an employee and the best practices of worker retention. It’s no secret that “frequent voluntary turnover has a negative impact on employee morale, productivity, and company revenue”; studies have found that in many cases losing an employee can cost double their annual salary, due to recruiting expenses, time lost, and training.

As such, businesses should consider the “real” cost of losing an employee. According to Deloitte study, these implications can include the full cost of hiring a new employee, lost productivity, lost engagement by coworkers, and a blow to morale and company culture. More companies need a system of tracking these markers, so they could gain metrics of seeing just how financially impactful it is to spend time recruiting, hiring, and training people. The losses are often staggering, making employee retention a critical part of a successful business. This goes beyond the “human element” and has real financial impact and reverberations can be felt for years around a company.

Zane Benefits also outlines best practices for employee retention, including a benchmark for a retention rate, creating a “high-feedback environment” for workers, and the conduction of thorough exit interviews for employees at every level. The true cost and impact of employee turnover is too often intangible, and lessons aren’t gleaned where they could be. Tracking more of these costs and keeping better track of employee satisfaction and corporate morale can do a lot to mitigate these costs and prevent turnover in the first place.

Hired By Twitter, Fired For Facebook

In the job market and corporate world, it doesn’t matter who you are: your social media and digital footprint are now a crucial part of your public persona. One new Twitter employee learned this the hard way last week. Former AngelHack founder Gregory Gopman had been hired to lead Twitter’s new virtual reality team, but within 48 hours, he was fired. Why? A public Facebook post from two years ago where he denigrated the “lower part of society” in San Francisco, lambasting the city’s entire homeless population in an odd, aggressive tirade.

TechCrunch, who broke the story of Gopman’s old post, criticized Twitter for hiring him: “For a company with such an abuse problem from trolls, it might initially seem like a double win that they’ve hired Gopman, a ‘VR expert’ who’s also voiced his passion for dealing with ‘degenerates.’ That is, until you realize that the ‘degenerates’ he’s referred to as a “burden and liability” were SF’s homeless population.” It seems as if Twitter did not know about Gopman’s post before hiring him and, sensing a firestorm of bad publicity, fired him almost immediately after the release of the article. This situation begs the question: is the blame on Twitter for not doing proper vetting in the hiring process? Or, should Gopman have kept better track of what he posted and what he made public? In any case, it is a company’s prerogative to terminate an employee once news like this comes out. Given Twitter’s issues with harassment, trolling, and virulent language on their site, it’s no wonder they wanted to avoid a potential publicity nightmare. But, by not doing their due diligence, this still caused quite a firestorm.

Gopman had already received flak for the 2013 post and had apologized for it, which really sheds some light on Twitter’s hiring process; if this was already public information, how did it not come up? Gopman deleted the post years ago, but it didn’t take much for TechCrunch to dig it up. In a move of personal PR recovery, Gopman has issued multiple statements blaming TechCrunch for writing a “smash piece” on him. The lesson to be learned here is one of due diligence: on potential employees being mindful of what they post online, and of recruiters and companies being careful in screening their candidates and their history on social media, especially those in the PR-sensitive social media industry. It is also important to remember that anyone is susceptible to the same level of social media scrutiny and that regardless of seniority you need to be careful what you post online.

Trump And The Role of Social Media

The Los Angeles Times recently published an article revealing several paid staffers on the Donald Trump campaign to have deeply inappropriate, racist content on their social media profiles, including posts that said “Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John F. Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war”.

This has ramifications on a political level, coming at a time where Donald Trump is seeking to broaden his appeal among minority voters and soften his status on illegal immigration in the lead-up to the election in November. Major offenders included Craig Bachler, one of Trump’s most senior staffers in Florida, and Mark Lloyd, Trump’s Virginia field director.

This controversy also raises the importance of vetting employees’ social media, and shows just how much one’s public profile says about their views, opinions, and image. It’s fair to say that any reasonable employer would never hire someone if they had known this information prior to these revelations; despite its notoriously inflammatory rhetoric, we should have this bare-minimum expectation for Mr. Trump’s campaign as well.

For the record, the Associated Press, which conducted the research of a number of Trump staffers’ profiles, also reviewed more than 3 dozen employees of Hillary Clinton and found nothing incriminating or inflammatory.

We used our software to run reports on Mr. Bachler and Mr. Lloyd, and between them we found dozens of “bad news” and red flags (nearly 40 pages all together) all culled from public information online; be it bigoted Facebook posts (with sexist, racist language and pictures), offensive tweets, and more. Any employer looking to run a cursory review of their potential employees would see this information and be unlikely to hire these men. Given the volatile nature of political campaigns, where an electorate and news cycle hangs on every word of candidates and controversy is brought to boil every moment, one would think there would be an even bigger premium on proper, basic vetting of staffers.

Screening Candidates on Social Media? Be Careful!

A recent article in Recruiter warns employers to “tread carefully” when vetting potential candidates on social media, as they can run the risk of having discrimination lawsuits brought against them. A poll by Monster of UK companies showed 56% of employers admit online profiles are influencing their hiring decisions; numbers that high give plenty of chances for best practices to get muddled.

In the United States, companies must remain Fair Credit Reporting Act compliant, both for legal safety and out of fairness to potential hires. Vetting candidates’ social media can lead to inconsistency in the screening process and plenty of discriminatory red flags, like seeing if someone is pregnant, their race, or if they have a disability. Race, gender, health, and political views should “not be taken into consideration when deciding on…suitability for a role”.

The same goes for consultants and recruiting firms, according to Recruiter. It doesn’t make any difference if you are a third party. Discriminating based on a public social media profile is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Screening social media is not illegal or unethical if done correctly, but every company must apply standards of best practice when looking for and researching candidates, online or off. According to the same Monster survey, 33% of British companies turned down applicants based on social media. That is a large—and growing—number. Companies must set a consistent focus on job-related screening to protect themselves and their potential hires.

Interested in learning more about the best practices for screening social media? Check out our video with employment attorney James Wu HERE.