Panel Discussion on Social Media, Background Checks and Employment Screening

Nick Fishman

I was privileged to lead a panel discussion this morning for the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago entitled “Social Networking Issues: The Risks and Rewards Related to Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter”.  The panel consisted of David Ritter, chairman of Neal, Gerber, Eisenberg’s labor and employment practice group, Alison O’ Hara, assistant general counsel at Follett Corporation, Courtney Hunt, founder and principal of Renaissance Strategic Solutions (RSS) and Mike Dwyer, senior consultant for Aon’s Organizational Performance and Implementation Group.

The panel focused on educating human resource professionals on the spectrum of social media platforms, how to build both a corporate and personal brand and of course, the pros and cons interacting with social media.  We didn’t get very far until the panel was asked what it thought of using social networking sites for background checks and employment screening.   I responded with the same thought many of you have heard me offer over the past several years.  As attorney’s, I was particularly interested in hearing both Alison and David’s thoughts.  David conceded that while there are certainly risks, he can understand why employers might be tempted to look.  And Alison mentioned, that there hasn’t been any remarkable litigation to date, but that all it takes is one example of an employer using it as part of an employee check in a discriminatory way to provoke strong reaction from the courts.  Both he and Alison agreed that you need to be extremely careful if you decide to engage in this practice.  They also said that if you were to find objectionable information, it all came down to a judgement call as far as a hiring decision was concerned.

Just some food for thought as you consider whether this practice is right for your organization.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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  • I’m not quite sure how looking at someone’s FaceBook page and getting a poor impression is any more discriminatory than looking at how someone is dressed or responds during an interview and getting a similar poor impression is discriminatory.

    The information is in the public domain and is available for all to see. Are we not allowed to make use of the information that is freely available to us to make an intelligent decision as to who we want to hire?