Online background checks have made life very easy for employers, but it's easy to forget that there are some pitfalls to all this information. In her article “Social Media: Its Use by Employers in Pre-Employment, Employment and Post-Employment Situations” which appeared in “New York Public Personnel Law” and was reprinted in the book “Social Networking,” Eileen Morgan Johnson warns about some of these potential dangers:
- Too Much Information: Johnson reminds employers that information found in an online profile (age, race, etc.) cannot be used in the hiring process.
- Quality of Information: Just because the profile has your applicant's name doesn't mean it's the person you want. Verify this before you make any judgments. After this is confirmed, make sure the information is reliable.
- Invasion of Privacy: Social networking sites like Google Plus have privacy options that allow users to restrict who can see what in their profiles. It can be tempting, but avoid any attempts to circumvent the applicant's privacy.
- Google and Other Search Engines: These sites can unearth a wealth of information, but be careful what you use; it can be hard to identify the sources for this information at times.
- Current Law on Reviewing Social Media Sites: There are no current court decisions on this matter, but that doesn't mean they won't be coming soon.
Getting information about your applicants through online background checks is very important, but so is making sure you are following protocol. Your nonprofit could find itself in hot water if it doesn't heed the warnings above.