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Employment Law

Screening Your Candidates' Online Content? Don't Miss This Detail

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Screening Your Candidates' Online Content? Don't Miss This Detail

Online content is powerful. From social media to personal blogs, the internet has become one of the largest platforms for people to express themselves. With more and more information being created each day, our online profiles often show more about who we are than we ever share in person.

Companies have recognized the value of this information when determining how well a current or prospective employee will further their mission and values, but there are often more questions than answers around online screening.

When you discover questionable content, what should you do? What are the steps to take when you see something that might be problematic for a particular role?

While every business has unique policies to follow based on state and local regulations, nearly all companies can adopt a few common principles to help ensure compliance within a complex legal landscape. The key to enacting any adverse decision when screening is to focus on the requirements of the job—and to base decisions on the candidate’s overall profile, not individual pieces of content…

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The Longer You Wait to Deal With Workplace Harassment, the More It’s Going to Cost

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The Longer You Wait to Deal With Workplace Harassment, the More It’s Going to Cost

What are the costs of sexual harassment?

Companies have long known that sexual harassment can lead to costly lawsuits. But since the explosion of #MeToo and the fall of Harvey Weinstein, the costs of misconduct have grown. Today, harassment is no longer just a cultural or legal issue, but a financial and brand issue that reaches every corner of the company. That means that no matter how good your training and reporting may be, they’re no longer enough.

Story after story has shown that when a brand loses authenticity over sexual harassment, they also risk losing their hard-won earnings. Uber has lost nearly 15% of its market share over the two years of its harassment scandals. After it was announced that Steve Wynn had received multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Wynn Resorts lost $3.5B in company value.

Your company should be armed and prepared to deal with toxic behavior as well as the brand damage that results when people hear about it. Companies are owning up to faults and taking action faster than ever when CEOs misuse their power. If you turn a blind eye to identifying and preventing toxic behavior, you’re risking more than legal fees and turnover—you risk irreparable damage to your market share, merger outcomes, and your name…

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Hollywood's Billion Dollar Social Media Problem

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Hollywood's Billion Dollar Social Media Problem

TV and film studios are scrambling for ways to protect themselves from the controversy and expense of a social media scandal, without having to actually read through thousands of old tweets. The proliferation of digital content has outpaced the industry’s tools for staying on top of it all, leaving companies wondering what to do—and who will be next.

With Roseanne's scandal costing over $60 million in lost ad revenue and Gunn being just the latest star to run into financial and reputational losses over online content, it has become clear that Hollywood has deeply entrenched issues when it comes to screening and managing stars for reputational risk online. At this rate, the industry is slated to lose over $1 billion in the next year over social media issues alone.

Shouldn’t companies be able to mitigate risk up front, before another high-profile social media or sexual harassment scandal arises…?

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Screening Candidates on Social Media? Be Careful!

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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 EEOC and FCRA 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 best practices for online screening? Check out our video with employment attorney James Wu:

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7 Best Practices for Social Media Screens

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7 Best Practices for Social Media Screens

One reason it is incredibly important we embrace the safety, rights and privacy of the individual when looking at social is because the data can be so subjective. The data found on social media represents patterns of behavior, that when strung together create a holistic online identity of a person. However, in some cases the executive may not see the full picture. Someone who tweets crude things, for example, might be a comedian and the content is part of an act. The information needs both context and balance.

Here are our recommendations for best practices on making social media data come alive, whether within a business or government context:

Involve the candidate

Let people know that their social media profiles will be searched. Let them know their public facing social media will be examined, with proper disclosure and authorization. Yes, that means no more cyberstalking, no more incognito searches – let’s be honest and upfront.

Research with compassion

Don’t think of social media as pure grounds for termination, or a definitive reason not to hire someone. Think of it as additional, empirical data available about a person. Then that data must be used to start a conversation with the candidate in question. The individual will either have a reasonable explanation for what’s been found, or they won’t. Either way, people should always have the option to present contrasting evidence.

Take a standardized approach

Consistent practices are important in ensuring that everyone is examined under the same criteria, and that everyone has a fair chance regardless of race, age, creed, station, etc. Further, the point of using social signal data is to begin to understand consistencies in the patterns of behavior to make smarter, better and faster decisions. Ideally, companies will rely on this data less because they will start intuitively understanding what a “good” person looks like online. Two rapidly evolving technologies can support this intuition: artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Get executive buy-in

If an organization allows individuals to manually research patterns of behavior, then it will always be subject to the prejudices and proclivities of a single person. That’s problematic. So set a top-down approach where leaders agree on what to look for, how to act on it, and make that an internal, crystallized policy.

Don't rely on social data alone

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to defining a person. We’re the most magical and diverse creatures walking this earth, and we know it. Use social media data as a companion, not the ultimate arbiter of whom a person is.

Recognize the limits of data analysis and the deep complexity of human behavior

Even a perfect model for picking up hints of terrorism in past behavior won't eliminate all future risks, because humans change behavior as often as they change clothes. Even the best screen can't keep every mosquito from getting through. The best that can be hoped for is to bring risks down to acceptable and largely predictable levels.

Finally, compliance

If you don’t know the laws, find someone who does. If you’re doing social checks, there are a variety of important laws in place to ensure all participating parties are protected.

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