Deep Background

European companies must restrict use of social media in screening job applicants

A European Union data-protection panel is placing conditions on corporate HR executives who want to look into job seekers’ social-media accounts during background screenings.

The EU group says companies can examine prospective employees’ LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other accounts only when “the collection of those data is necessary and relevant to the performance of the job which is being applied for.” A June 2017 opinion by the EU’s Article 29 Working Party – consisting of the EU’s national data-privacy offices, including the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office – said that “employers should not assume that merely because an individual’s social media profile is publicly available they are then allowed to process those data for their own purposes. A legal ground is required for this processing.”

The opinion also said that if a hiring company wants to inspect a job hunter’s social-media profiles it must warn the person up front, such as in an advertisement for a job. It also said that companies cannot screen existing employees’ social media postings “on a generalised basis.” The new rules are scheduled to go into effect in May 2018.

Recruiting consultant Jobvite said in a 2016 survey of 1,600 U.S.-based companies that 87 per cent of corporate recruiting offices check job seekers’ LinkedIn accounts, 43 per cent check Facebook, and 22 per cent check Twitter. In a survey of U.S.-based employers in early 2017, another recruitment consultant, CareerBuilder, found that 70% percent of companies routinely use social media to screen candidates, an increase from 11 percent in 2006.

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