How To Stay On The Right Side Of The Law With Mobile Hiring And Social Vetting
Mobile hiring and social vetting is still a very murky area. Depending on whom you ask, either 78 percent of job hunters are turning to their mobile devices to find their next job, or as many as 9 in 10 job seekers are taking their search to mobile. Regardless of the actual statistics, I think we can agree on one thing: that’s a lot of mobile job seekers.
Aggregate sites such as Indeed make the whole job hunting process much easier, and the introduction of LinkedIn’s apply button make it much easier to express your interest to potential hiring matches without a desktop computer in sight. Applying with your LinkedIn profile is quick, simple and easy. And provided you keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, it could even be more informative than your CV. Often, we fluff up our CVs with superfluity, but the LinkedIn profile is different. Perhaps it’s the public nature of the platform that encourages us to offer a frank overview of our achievements, rather than embellishing our knowledge and skills into complete obscurity?
As companies look for more and more ways to make the hiring process efficient and effective, technology adoption is at an all-time high. From the mobile-optimised websites encouraging individuals to apply to the HR apps helping workers to log holidays and sick days. Technology has done a lot for streamlining these traditionally labour-intensive processes. However, as with everything that technology touches, there’s a legal element which cannot be ignored. This became evident in early 2017 when tech giants Uber and Deliveroo were caught trying to circumnavigate employment law and were forced to bring in the dispute resolution solicitors to settle the case. Workers at Uber and Deliveroo don’t go to an office every day; their jobs exist entirely on apps. This is fundamentally changing the way we think about employment.
There are other legal implications of an increasingly technical recruitment process, for the employer and the employee. When you’re in university and on the cusp of applying for jobs, the primary advice people are willing to dish out is that you should keep your social media profiles in check. That ill-advised and sarcastic tweet about a professor isn’t going to endear you to the hiring manager who decides to Google your name and give the first page of Google results a cursory glance.
For the prospective employee, you want to make sure the hiring manager finds that thought-provoking piece you wrote for the student paper, rather than the results of that Buzzfeed quiz that told you which Disney Princess you should be. You want to appear active and engaged in your industry, but not like you spend all day tweeting. Likewise, you want to appear strong-willed and opinionated without coming across as an internet troll. You can lock down your profiles, but that could make you appear guarded, or like you have a dark secret to hide.
It doesn’t get any easier when you’ve found a job, either, as your social media can still land you in hot water. There’s no shortage of cases, but there are also some very public cases, such as the infamous case of Lindsey Stone, a charity worker who lost her job after posting a photo of herself at the Arlington National Cemetery in the US. She wasn’t fired because her employer found the photo, she was fired because “the internet” took offense and put pressure on her employer to let her go. There are enough of these types of stories to warrant a book.
From the employer’s perspective, vetting potential hires through social media is a double-edged sword. It would almost seem irresponsible not to take on board all of the information available; but at what cost? The candidate who is perfect on paper might come across as a closet racist on social media, but how can you broach the topic without revealing that you went 3 years deep into their Twitter history? Regardless of how you stumbled across the information; how can you broach the topic at all?
There’s also the risk of unconscious biases working their way into hiring decisions following social media vetting. When social media vetting moves beyond checking a candidate’s LinkedIn profile, the employer essential needs to tread carefully. Not hiring a candidate who looks good on paper and has passed all formal interview tasks is going to raise suspicion. In the United States, the case of Gaskell v. Univ. of Kentucky (Bally, 2014) raised questions about how hiring managers can use social media to gather information about candidates and then allow this to shape their decisions.
The solution? Some HR circles call for the use of an “ethical wall” between the hiring manager and the candidate researcher. The candidate researcher will carry out their vetting, and head three-pages deep into their Twitter favourites and Facebook likes. They then pass any relevant information to the hiring manager or committee, but only that information that is legally permissible. For the employer looking for someone of the right “culture fit”, this leaves plenty of room to get creative about what is and isn’t required knowledge.
In conclusion, business owners should absolutely make use of every avenue available to them when making hiring decisions, but it’s important to stay on the right side of the law. Although mobile hiring and social vetting is a new process, there are established employment laws in place which you cannot ignore, even if technology makes it easier to do so.