4 responses

  1. KC
    April 29, 2009

    I think a key point here is that oftentimes Facebook etc. information is used by managers who are not necessarily well-versed in what constitutes illegal discrimination.

    There was an interesting SIOP panel discussion about this, and they brought up some interesting points. First, if one applicant has a FB account, and another does not, you are essentially adding an additional hurdle for one person and not another. In addition, because pictures are often posted without context, you may believe you know what you are viewing when you actually do not. For example, an image of an applicant laying on the floor might suggest drinking to the point of passing out, when it could actually a disability-related issue. I would say for organizations, it would be wise to not use FB and other social networking sites to screen out applicants– we don’t yet have a sense of how useful this information really is in terms of performance, and I think the risk of using information gained inappropriately is too great.

  2. Richard N. Landers
    April 29, 2009

    While adding extra hurdles for applicants because they have a FB profile (versus those that don’t) is probably unwise, it’s not illegal, is it? As long as you aren’t in the gray area mentioned above, anyway.

    Regardless, I suppose I agree to recommend against using this information. After thinking on it, it seems a lot like the trouble brought by unstructured interviews – you’re not allowing everyone to operate on a level playing field, so there’s no frame of reference for the hiring manager, ultimately just increasing the noise (as in signal-to-noise) that the hiring decision is based on.

  3. KC
    May 1, 2009

    The illegality of extra hurdles depends on protected class status, I suppose. So I wonder if there are racial/gender differences in terms of who is more likely to have a FB page? I guess I just think it would be hard to defend against a charge related to FB/no FB info, because it is so easy to disclose protected information on FB (marital status, race, disability, age) that can be used, intentionally or unintentionally, by a hiring manager.

  4. Richard N. Landers
    May 1, 2009

    That’s a very interesting point! And I agree. I think that if there were protected class differences (say, for example, more women were on FB than men, as this page suggests – http://www.checkfacebook.com/), and you chose not to hire people from information gathered on FB, then there would definitely be adverse impact, and it would be impossible to prove that there wasn’t. You’d be eliminating proportionally more women than men from that hurdle (assuming a representative distribution of FB usage among your applicant pool, and assuming a normal distribution of potentially damaging information across groups within the protected class). Of course, if your applicant pool’s FB-usage distribution was different from the overall distribution, if for example there was a wide range of SES in your pool, then it would get even more messy.

    I think we’re also implicitly assuming that people will only be eliminating from FB usage. But I can just as easily imagine a hiring manager being iffy on an applicant, checking their FB profile, and discovering they like the same sports team – instant hire.

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