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Q: Can I use social media as a way screening a candidate’s suitability?

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Recruitment is an industry of communication. Social media has become an easy and convenient way of communicating with clients and candidates as well as for building and maintaining business relationships. Statistics have shown that a large number of recruiters check a candidate’s social media profile before interview as a way of checking their suitability, which is not without risk. Checking a candidate’s social media profile may reveal characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act). The nine protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation. If a rejected candidate can establish that a recruiter has been looking at their profile on Facebook or LinkedIn and illustrate their rejection was based on one of the protected characteristics, then there is a possibility that they can bring a claim for discrimination under the Act. That is not to suggest that looking at a candidate’s profile before interview will be an automatic breach of the Act. If a rejected applicant can establish that their profile has been viewed, they will still need to illustrate some form of less favourable treatment because of a protected characteristic. If a candidate alleges unlawful discrimination in that he/she was not selected for a role because of a protected characteristic, any such claim will fail at the first hurdle if the candidate cannot show that you were aware of a particular characteristic – whether from use of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) or otherwise. As discussed above if you have viewed a candidate’s profile it will not mean an automatic breach of the Act, however it does bring the candidate one step closer to establishing their claim (as they may be able to show you had knowledge of the protected characteristic). This therefore leaves recruiters with two possible solutions:

1 The first (and safest) option would be to simply not check the candidate’s social media profile.

2 Alternatively if you are going to check a candidate’s profile, be sure not to let any information (concerning protected characteristics) that you may discover impact your decision with regard to the candidate. You should therefore be sure to have robust recruitment procedures in place to ensure that information relating to protected characteristics does not unlawfully influence recruitment decisions.

Source: Recruitment & Employment Confederation www.rec.uk.com

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