Socially Intelligent Background Checks?
October 15, 2010
A couple weeks ago, ERE’s Todd Raphael posted a story about a new technology that aggregates information on job candidates through social networking sites as part of their employment screening efforts. See excerpt below.
A new company called “Social Intelligence” says it’ll “track the worldwide network of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, individual blogs, and thousands of other sources.”
Social Intelligence will, within 24-48 hours, produce a report on a job candidate using both automation as well as humans, the latter there to make sure there aren’t “false positives.” It says it will weed out “protected class” information it finds, such as race and religion. The company is also offering a version to monitor what existing employees are up to.
Nick Fishman, the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, doesn’t envision his or other similar companies going down the social-media background-checking road. “Not only are they not now, but I don’t foresee getting into it in the future,” he says. “It’s a hornet’s nest.” Awaiting employers in that nest, he says, are FCRA regulations and EEO rules.
When Todd and I spoke, I didn’t have the benefit of seeing what the interface would look like (see below). Having seen it, I’m even more entrenched in my position that employers should stay away from this. However, I think the concept could be extremely valuable for job seekers that want to conduct background checks on themselves. With ratings such as “Demonstrating Potentially Violent Behavior” and “Poor Judgement”, this site might as well be a lawsuit in a box for employers.
There were a lot of comments generated on ERE as a result of this post (mainly from those warning against the use of this technology). See a few samples below:
PCRecruiter’s Martin Snyder said, “I would not want to be that firm’s insurance company, at least until a few libel claims have been court-tested. I also would not want to use a selection or ranking method that has not been shown/tested to be free of disparate impact.”
Dr. Wendell Williams said, “I have to say I am not fond of this idea on so many levels. In my opinion, social networking as an effective hiring tool ranks right along with tea-leaves, astrology, and handwriting analysis. That said, anyone with sufficiently poor judgment to demonstrate inappropriate behavior in a public medium probably deserves what they get. To the best of my knowedge the role of a recruiter (corporate or otherwise) is identify people who are job-qualified…and, aside from the potential for making a perfect jerk out of yourself, I don’t see how social media does that.”
Charles Handler said, “I have to say that I feel this technology is a total invasion of privacy and good luck to anyone who uses it and expects that they are in any way impervious to lawsuits. It is a highly subjective measure that, when used as a selection tool, is in violation of best practices on so many levels. I can see the argument for it, I get it. Still, I cannot feel good about it. We are entitled to our privacy. I do feel people should be discreet about what they allow to be attached to their name on the web. But what about all those that keep things private, should they have an advantage over those who do not? I am not sure. At the end of the day, I could not recommend that my clients use this technology.”
Employers: Be afraid. Be very afraid.