A research study by Carnegie Mellon University discussed in the Wall Street Journal notes that:

A study involving dummy résumés and social-media profiles, found that between 10% and a third of U.S. firms searched social networks for job applicants’ information early in the hiring process. In those cases, candidates whose public profiles indicated they were Muslim were less likely to be called for interviews than Christian applicants. The difference was particularly pronounced in parts of the country where more people identify themselves as conservative. In those places, Christian applicants got callbacks 17% of the time, compared with about 2% for Muslims.

Wow.  That’s a big difference.  Is there anything wrong with this?

The EEOC would likely think so, and this could lead to legal problems.  It’s complicated, but these sorts of issues can be mitigated by:

  1. Conduct Social Media Background Checks late in the hiring process, when the applicant’s demographics are already known.
  2. Insulate the social media investigator from those involved in this particular hire.  Some experts say to specially train someone who is neutral, and not involved in the hiring process, have them redact all protected information, and provide a carefully edited report to management.

But I see two problems with this:

  1. What if the “neutral” social media investigator is biased?  In the example described above, this would make things even worse.
  2. What about small businesses?  Small businesses do the overwhelming majority of hiring, and most don’t have the luxury of finding employees who are neutral, politically aware editors.

The fast and safe solution here may well be to cut through the complexities and just get a third party to do the Social Media Background Report.