December 09, 2010 | | Comments 0
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The candidate’s face on Facebook: Should a hiring decision be based on social media conduct?

Would you hire a physician who posted questionable photos or comments relating to his or her personal activities on a social media site?

With escalating frequency, hiring managers are confronted with information about candidates that pushes them into uncharted waters. Do you know what information you can legally, ethically, and practically consider as part of your hiring decision?

The media is full of reports about what constitutes protected speech relating to the workplace and about one’s personal activities. Case law lags technology, and there will be no surefire answers anytime soon.

When a recruiting a physician, the stakes may be more critical. Do you apply a higher standard to meet the expectations of patients and colleagues? Or, do you stretch your comfort zone because you’ve been recruiting so long you can’t afford to lose a candidate with otherwise stellar professional references and impeccable clinical skills?

As recruiters, we aren’t dispensing legal advice. However, organizations should understand that screening candidates based on information gleaned from social media involves the same risks and responsibilities as information from other sources, including references, personal acquaintances, court records, news reports, patient ratings, social encounters, and even off-hand remarks by the candidate or spouse during the interview.

Structure and consistency are the watchwords.

A social media post may reveal information about political views, religion, national or ethnic origin, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability. Those categories may represent a protected class upon which you cannot base a hiring decision.

Some organizations apply certain standards regarding personal conduct, based on their attorneys’ advice. In that case, be certain that you are uniformly applying these standards and not making exceptions to be more liberal or more restrictive with physicians versus other employees.

Train your managers and recruiters about your organization’s approved and accepted methods for researching and reporting on a candidate’s background. Be transparent about how you plan to use—or ignore—information learned in the screening process.

Candidates may deserve the opportunity to rectify a mistaken impression conveyed on Facebook. On the other hand, their social media presence may underscore the reality that their nonprotected behaviors, judgment, and values support a legitimate decision to take them out of the running.

Consider this reality according to Erik Qualman, author the book Socialnomics: To reach 50 million users, radio took 38 years; television took 13 years; the Internet took four years; and the iPod took three years. Facebook added 200 million users in less than a year. Qualman reports that 96% of Millennials have joined a social network.

We can’t ignore social media as a tool for knowing who our candidates really are. Nor will the rapid changes in technology slow down, allowing courts to draw bright lines and safe boundaries.

If your organization takes a well-planned, consistent, and legally compliant approach to screening candidates today, you are ready to use new technology to make great hires (with fewer issues) tomorrow and into the future.

What are your thoughts? Social media is a hot topic for employers. How are you leveraging social media in your recruitment process? Comment below.

Entry Information

Filed Under: Physician compensation and employmentRecruitment & retention


Error: Unable to create directory uploads. Is its parent directory writable by the server? About the Author: Lori Schutte is president of Cejka Search, a nationally recognized physician and executive search organization providing services exclusively to the healthcare industry for more than 25 years. Lori brings extensive healthcare and operational experience to the Cejka Search Division, including the development and implementation of strategic plans, team building, and client relationship management and program development. Lori joined Cejka Search in 2004 as vice president of client services. In this role, she was responsible for defining and executing initiatives which were vital to successful service delivery by providing strategic direction, guaranteeing internal performance and quality standards, and exceeding client expectations. Lori was presented with the Cejka Search Leadership Award in February 2010 in recognition of her outstanding service to the organization during 2009. Prior to joining Cejka Search, Lori was vice president of Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis. During her 15-year tenure, she managed the development and implementation of organ and tissue donation systems within a hospital setting and is a recognized leader in the organ procurement community. Lori holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Saint Louis University.

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