Employers screening for online ranters

Bobbi Ryan

Social media screening is becoming increasingly important in the hiring process as employers look to avoid online meltdowns.

The issue was highlighted this week when a prominent real estate firm censured an agent for anti-immigrant comments made on his personal Facebook account.

In the social media age the controversial views of employees can do significant reputational damage to businesses. As a result, a growing number of employers are combing through Facebook and Twitter accounts for signs a candidate could present a social media risk.

Employers are certainly reviewing social media when selecting new staff and we know of situations where a candidate’s online activity has impacted their ability to secure a role. Not only are employers looking at social media when selecting candidates, but some monitor ongoing activity after making the hire. We know of situations where people have called in sick, only to post on Facebook pictures of themselves at an event.

It can be a “minefield” balancing freedom of speech with social media activity, and some candidates may be disqualifying themselves by posting controversial opinions online.

While discriminating on the basis of political opinion is illegal, there will likely be situations where those who are overt and outspoken in sharing highly contentious opinions on social media may be perceived as a risk to the employer and their employment brand.

However, well-crafted arguments that are not offensive are not likely to have too much of an impact.

Employers should educate their teams on the risks and get legal advice around developing their social media policies, so they have a framework to work within if presented with a social media crisis.

Social media stupidity can strike anyone of any age and says many of the gaffes are by people aged over 40 who did not grow up with Facebook.

Our middle aged and older generations are often not fully up to speed with how social media is shared, who will see it, etc. Even something as simple as understanding the privacy settings on your Facebook profile can be completely new to older users.

Here’s a rule of thumb: if you are happy for your employer, partner, colleagues, kids, grandmother and neighbours to see what you are about to post, then go ahead. If you cringe at the thought of any of those groups seeing your post, don’t do it.


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