Updated: Aug 18
Including online searches in your recruitment process
One of the major changes detailed in the latest version of Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) is the suggestion that schools should consider conducting online searches, to include social media as part of the recruitment process for candidates that have been shortlisted. The idea is that this can help to identify anything publicly available online which a school or college might want to explore with a candidate during the interview.
The KCSiE wording only suggests that schools ‘consider’ conducting an online search (including social media) as part of their due diligence on shortlisted applicants. The Department for Education have not provided specific guidance on the detail or appropriateness of this section of KCSiE, so schools will need to create their own protocol and process.
We are advising clients that online searches are included alongside referencing once a candidate has been shortlisted for interview if you plan to include searches in your recruitment process.
There are risks associated with undertaking online searches as part of the recruitment process which are worth bearing in mind:
In viewing information gained from online searches, there is the possibility that any pre held beliefs and biases may influence your thinking and prejudice your decision making. Making judgments on what you have seen could be discriminatory, even if unconscious.
For example, is something that was posted when the applicant was aged 16 really relevant to their job application some 10 years later? Opinions and comments made may no longer be views held by a more experienced or mature version of themselves.
We already consider bias such as critique of spelling and grammar in job applications which may be more common for those with dyslexia for example, but many are filtered out by using spell check or having a helping hand with applications. Social media posts tend to be less prepared and more off the cuff, without the benefit of spelling and grammar correction software. Discrimination here could contravene the Equalities Act.
Politically held views are also a hot potato when it comes to online searches. Only information which has a bearing on their ability to do the job should be considered.
Clearly, the intention is not that jobs are offered or refused based on social media searches, but rather that anything of note should be discussed at interview to explore the applicant’s views or motivations and be considered as part of a much wider and rigorous selection process.
Ensure that all shortlisted candidates are treated equally. Online searches should be carried out for all or none. It’s not appropriate to only search some of the candidate’s online presence.
Where should searches be focussed?
A general internet search is likely to bring up publications, articles and headlines involving the individual and any press coverage they have had.
Using information sourced from someone’s social media profile to decide whether you hire them has significant risks, particularly if you do not have their consent.
ACAS guidance suggests that when recruiting it can be useful to review information that candidates put on jobs websites, or a business social networking site such as LinkedIn to check to see if a C.V. mirrors their LinkedIn profile. When posting information on an online site intended for business use, individuals will be mindful that the purpose is to show their work experience and professionalism and there is an expectation that it will be viewed by prospective employers.
Employer should be clear that choosing to search other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can be problematic as, in most cases, individuals won’t have posted this information with the intention of sharing it with prospective employers, and as such, it is not appropriate to search these as part of an appropriate recruitment process.
Make clear in your documentation that online searches as part of your process.
Ask for their LinkedIn page so that they have provided it to you willingly, making clear that it will be reviewed as part of your selection process.
Beware of personal bias in reviewing online content relating to applicants.
Be consistent. Don’t carry out online searches on only a few applicants – all or nothing.
Be very mindful of confidentiality – no new starter wants their inappropriate posts or results of online searches to be the talk of the staff room on their first day.
Discussing online presence at interview is appropriate, both to openly talk about anything found that you feel warrants discussion, and to discuss social media policies and protocols within your organisation.
Don’t forget that online searches work both ways, and employers would do well to check their online reviews, indeed and Glassdoor pages to ensure they are portraying the best image of the organisation.
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The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and does not replace legal or other professional advice.