The hot topic on the rise in the job-seeking force is the act of social media platform checks in the hiring processes utilized by employers. Recently, as the usage of social media is skyrocketing, employers are using websites and applications as databases to gain more information about job applicants by thoroughly scrutinizing their social media accounts. According to CareerBuilder, in 2016, 60% of employers surveyed had social media platform checks when hiring new employees, and 59% of those have specialized search engines for the monitoring of their employees. Many companies even have particular sectors in their office in which workers are dedicated to the patrolling of the social media accounts of a company’s employees. There is a only certain extent, however, that employers can go until it becomes a legal and ethical issue, which is why policies are established to restrict the surveillance that employers have on their workers, but unfortunately these policies are very loosely implemented and must be revised.
Social media can be defined as any web-based network that people can join to communicate and engage with other users. Examples may include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, etc. The overall purpose of social media is to provide people with a specific tool to interact with others of similar interests or relations through the posting of words, pictures, or videos. It is intrusive and inappropriate for employers to inspect the content posted by their potential workers because it creates a bias for the employer and reveals information irrelevant to the workplace. Postings may often express certain prejudices that the employer may not favor, degrading the chances of a job-seeking individual to earn a job, even if he or she acquires an ample amount of skill imperative for the job. Not only may it create a bias, but it may also lead to false judgement of character. Online accounts do not provide a proper impression of an individual’s professional character, therefore, should not be a factor considered for hiring. CareerBuilder indicates that 41% of the employers surveyed conceded that they are less likely to interview someone if information about him or her is not found online, creating an unfair advantage to those who do partake in social media. Also, this proves that employers use social media as a first impression rather than a face-to-face professional interview, which certainly does not provide an authentic sense of character. Employees often feel stressed or pressured when they are aware that their employers are watching over them. This could impair their social behavior, as they limit the content of their postings in fear that they may lose their job. This could go as far as developing and suffering through health issues such as anxiety. Evidently, the issues in reference to the moral values of employers, are abundant and could easily be diminished if we have a reformation in employers rights.
Along with the many ethical issues, legal issues often arise with the use of social media checks in employment. Many employees are not even aware that they are being watched by their employers. In a survey conducted in 2009(Vicknair, Elkersh, Yancey, & Budden, 2010), to determine if employees are aware of their employers monitoring their social media, 49.3% of responses indicated that they are aware, leaving an approximate 50% of uninformed employees who are being deceived by their employers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which protects union-related activities, does allow employers to use social media, but they highly discourage it because it can be extremely risky. The risk is induced because the NLRB enforces the law that if a job applicant believes that he or she was denied the job for the reason that the employer is familiar with the applicant’s protected union activity by social media platform checks, the job applicant can accuse the employer of doing so. The employer will then suffer major legal consequences, unless it can be proved that he or she had no knowledge of the applicant’s activity, which can be very difficult to do. On another note, if, perhaps, a manager makes a post including content that may seem inappropriate to the workplace, the entire company would be at stake. The risk in this situation is caused by a factor that is not pertinent to the office at all, and rather ruins the reputation of the company. If this were to happen and the manager was to be terminated, it would be harming the company rather than helping it due to one post that is simply unrelated to the workplace. Therefore, the legal considerations regarding social media platform checks have a high amount of discernible risk.
In order for employers to eliminate the risk they face, designate their employees using the most equitable method possible, and secure the rights employees have as stated in the National Labor Relations Board Act, social media platform checks must be prohibited for all companies. An effective solution to the conflict would be to allow employers to use websites, such as LinkedIn or ZipRecruiter, that acquire the purpose of job applicants being able to provide information to employers by choice. Unless the website is not for recruiting job seeking individuals, websites and applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. must be forbidden by the use of employer’s during the hiring process. This will only have a positive outcome on companies and the economy as a whole, hiring the most capable workers, regardless of their social lives. It will ensure that our economy gets the most out of the labor force, boosting our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), without employers being picky about their employee’s lives outside of the office. All in all, employees are not objects; instead, they are people who socialize and have an identity outside of the workplace, and hiring employees would be a far more efficient process if social lives of employees were not take into account, excluding personal prejudices and preventing employer bias, meanwhile, also preventing legal conflict with employee and employer rights violations.