Social media checks can affect recruitment diversity

It is perhaps understandable why some employers are tempted to check applicants on social media. It can sometimes seem like the more information available, the better. However, this is rarely actually the case. Often employers will end up with information they don’t want or, even worse, that legally they shouldn’t have.

An example is for people with a spent caution or conviction. Apart from some very specific situations, this means they have a right for the caution or conviction to be forgotten. They don’t have to disclose it and it will not show up on a Basic criminal record check. But if employers do a social media check (or just a web search), they might get information about their spent record. This shouldn’t be taken into account, as legally they shouldn’t have the information.

Another example could be if a social media check flags someone’s past health issues – such as substance abuse. An employer might want to know about it but would have to be very careful to show they didn’t discriminate against someone unlawfully.

The other important issue is how these checks might affect the diversity of recruitment. An example could be where someone made a mistake years ago – maybe posting unpleasant things or using horrible language. But is that still relevant now? If they have learnt and grown as a person – employers want to focus on who they are now, not who they were.

Employers may never know of the challenges faced by an applicant years ago. Or what was going on in their life that contributed to poor decisions. But if employers exclude anyone who has made a mistake because a social media check flags it as a risk, they miss out on brilliant candidates who have a lot to offer.

Diverse recruitment means celebrating people with different experiences and voices. The evidence shows this improves the way organisations work. So as an employer, be careful what you wish for if you run social media checks. In trying to reduce risks, you may find your applicant pool narrows considerably and your organisation will suffer as a consequence.

Find our guidance here on searching the internet for criminal records.

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