Is Candidate Social Media Screening a Step Too Far?

My topic 3 post mentioned that employers are increasingly relying on reviewing job candidate’s social media presence as part of the application process. Career builder found that 40% of companies will browse an individual’s social media account before making a decision of hiring the job applicant. The Apprentice 2014 winner Ricky Martin (who now runs a recruitment company) explains in the video below how he has changed the decision to hire a candidate after reviewing their activity on social media.

By recognising that there is a growing importance of social media within the recruitment process, the question now arises as to whether there are ethical concerns surrounding this issue.

Is employee social media screening an invasion of privacy?

Whilst many suggest that the role social media can play in the job application process is too significant, are these people right in thinking that this is unethical and an invasion of privacy? Sprague stated that as a result of the current privacy laws within the UK, a job application that posts online should have no expectation of privacy and therefore no recourse (Sprague, 2008). For further information on the legal risks associated with employee social media screening in the USA, click here.Topic 4 UOSM photo

Looking at the issue from a business’s point of view, the potential candidate will be a representation of the company and therefore their future posts online are an extension of the firm’s values and ethos. In addition to this, with the option to take advantage of extensive privacy settings on social media and with the choice of sharing the content being down to the candidate, the idea that social media screening is unethical and an invasion of privacy could be difficult to reconcile (HR Zone).

However, is it fair that your employability may be affected by a post that was written a long time ago and is not an accurate representation of you?

My view

Whilst at first it may seem unethical for a company to screen candidates through social media, if you are eventually employed, you are a representation of the company. As a result, your activity on social media could negatively affect the company further down the line and the firm could be seen to have a duty to negate this potential risk through screening. I therefore believe that company’s are acting in the interest of their clients and major stakeholders and the ethical issues surrounding the topic should be downplayed.

However, it is important to recognise that an over-reliance of social media background screening could result in employers forming opinions of candidates that may not be an entirely accurate representation of the individual which is something that firms should be aware of. An article completed by Randstad highlights the potential risks associated with an over-reliance of social media within recruitment.



Sprague, R. 2008. Rethinking information Policy in an age of online transparency. Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, 25:395

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12 thoughts on “Is Candidate Social Media Screening a Step Too Far?

  1. Hi Stuart,

    I enjoyed your blog post, and it further informed my view when you linked it to your Topic 3 post at the start, as I hadn’t already read that. Segal’s viewpoint in the HR Magazine you referenced really interested me, as he recognised the costs associated with utilising social media during recruitment, but reasoned that an extreme reaction in either direction for this wasn’t efficient and didn’t outweigh the benefits for the business. I’ve often been notified by LinkedIn that a recruiter has viewed my profile after a job interview, and I understand why Segal highlights this process as best practice.

    The article advocates for candidates to show parts of their personal and professional life. Do you agree that they should show aspects of their personal life in order to appear “relatable”, or do you think everyone should only show their professional lives on social media public settings to avoid being judged this way?



    1. Hi Jodie,

      Thanks for your comment, I hold the opinion that your online profiles should be managed like the content is managed within your CV. Whilst it is important to remain professional, it is also important to highlight your interests and show more about your personality as after all employers are often not just looking for educational characteristics to be met but also for interesting individuals with active passions.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Stuart, I enjoyed your blog post, especially the video with Apprentice winner, Ricky Martin. I personally try and keep my privacy settings as tight as possible because I am aware of how “exposed” we can be nowadays. Having said that, I think the lines are blurred when recruiters decide what they consider as “appropriate content”. I might want to share a picture of myself during the summer holidays, relaxing on a beach in a bikini as you do, but they might consider it “skimpy” and “distasteful”. But I also think we can tell a lot about company if we look into their employee profiles. This article might interest you:
    Employers might be checking us out, by we can also check out if we really should be applying to their company ! For example, “late-night Instagram posts could mean long work hours. If the company’s website shows foosball tables and a Slurpee machine, but you don’t see a single photo of them on Instagram, that could indicate employees are too busy to use them. Lots of selfies at after-hour outings suggest good office camaraderie.”
    Do you think we have the right to turn the tables on them or do you think perhaps we should be concentrating on proving ourselves first and landing the job?
    Vicky 🙂


    1. Hi Vicky,

      Thanks very much for your comment! Evaluating companies and potential employers through their presence and activity on social media is an extremely insightful thought. Having applied for graduate roles this year, I have noticed that the websites of companies do not reveal much regarding work-life balance, how tight knitted the employees are or the amount of events outside of the workplace. I believe investigating companies through social media is something which can indirectly reveal a lot about the company and is definitely something I will consider doing in the future.



  3. Hi Stuart

    I found your post very interesting to read and it shows how the issues we’ve been covering so far are linked and how your whole digital life affects many different things. For me personally before doing the module would never have realised that companies screened social media accounts and I still see many friends who post things that would negatively affect them when it comes to getting a job.

    Personally I think that it is a step too far because whatever happened to keeping your work and private life separate? Only in cases where the business is negatively effective is it necessary to discriminate against people based on social media post (such as Justine Sacco).

    Finally if a company is reliant on social media screening then they can be excluding the best candidates before meeting them and also what happens if a candidate has no social media accounts? What are your thoughts?


    1. Hi Sam,

      Thanks for taking time to comment on my latest post! I completely agree that by implementing social media screening within the recruitment process, companies can be excluding the best job candidates. However, in a graduate job market that is severely over-crowded, companies are perhaps looking for further stages to eliminate candidates from the application process if large amounts of applicants are meeting their existing criteria. In relation to your comment on candidates who possess no social media accounts, this potentially suggests that there is an extra hurdle to overcome for candidates with an active presence on social media which obviously fair.



  4. Hi Stuart! Firstly, Id like to say that I found your post very clear with well-rounded arguments. I agree with you when you say that employees ultimately represent their companies. However, I feel this representation has its limits. People can’t be “in the office” 24/7 and they need a platform where they can have the freedom to be themselves (e.g. facebook). BUT(!) as we mentioned in Topic 2, they should also be aware of their privacy settings. If their questionable status is set to “public”, then is it really the employer’s fault for calling them out? When it comes to actually acting upon it (e.g. whether the company fires the employee), things are a little more tricky in my opinion. As Randstad mentioned in his article, companies should not rely wholesomely on social media to judge an employee…and I think this is just common sense. I am curious, however: if you were an employer, and you came across one of your employee’s statuses on facebook which portrayed a sexist comment (for example: Women belong in the kitchen, not behind a steering-wheel), what would your course of action be?


    1. Hi Melinda,

      Thanks very much for your comment on my recent post! If I was the employer who found a derogatory comment from one of my employees on their social media account, I would definitely enforce disciplinary action on the individual involved. I believe social media accounts are an extension of your personality and views and therefore I understand why employers take the content of your accounts very seriously.



  5. Hi Stuart,

    I found this blog really informative and I particularly enjoyed your focus on the impacts of social media on employability.

    I agree that a recruiter should look into the social media presence of an applicant as it is in the best interests of their company. However, I do feel as though if a candidate has done their best to apply strenuous privacy settings, a recruiter looking to bypass these, in order to find material which would work against a candidate, would be incredibly unfair. Unfortunately, as you noted in your post, this practice is quite common purely because once a candidate is employed, an employer would be in breach of their employment contract to carry investigations of this nature. (Some brief information regarding an employers implied duty with relation to this topic can be found here:

    Also, do you think that carrying out social media checks as part of the recruitment process will become an unrealistic task as our generation, who have grown up using social media, enter the job market? Or should a time limit be imposed as to how far back a recruiter can investigate into? It would seem unfathomable for a candidate to miss out on a job opportunity because of a post made when they were thirteen!


    1. Hi Kemi,

      Thanks for your comment! The time limit element of candidate social media screening is both valued and interesting. I believe that it is one that employers will make on a case by case basis. However, if the post was racist/sexist/derogatory, I’m sure that the employer would reject the application no matter how long ago it was posted. Having said this, for posts that are perhaps naive or immature that are posted a long time ago, I believe that employers should take this into account and adopt an application process that isn’t over-reliant on the screening of candidates social media accounts.



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