Social Intelligence has only been in business for one year but already it’s set to make a big impact on the ways that employers screen prospective hires through the use of social media. Googling a job applicant can upend an employer’s best intentions to perform a thorough and fair job screening because online searches can easily reveal details that are legally prohibited from being asked during an interview — facts about an applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, race, age, gender, or disability. Conducting online research that discloses sensitive information can leave employers vulnerable to discrimination suits.
On the other hand, not conducting an online search leaves undesirable and, quite importantly, legally knowable characteristics about an applicant undiscovered until it’s too late. In its website, Social Intelligence says that its company tracks down pertinent information on job candidates, like public postings on social media sites of “racist remarks or activities, sexually explicit photos or videos, and illegal activity such as drug use,” in addition to those of “charitable or volunteer efforts, participation in industry blogs, and external recognition.” The company’s gambit is to conduct meticulous online investigations on job applicants but only pass on to client-employers information that is legally safe for them to have. According to Social Intelligence, this is an all-around win-win situation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s outreach manager, Joe Bontke, spoke with the New York Times and told the paper that violating antidiscrimination laws was a real risk for employers. He also gave the folks there two figures: 75 percent of American recruiters conduct mandatory online investigations on applicants and 70 percent of them report having snubbed applicants because of the information gathered through those investigations.