Discrimination, social media and getting a job

This post will continue along the theme of online identity and how it can affect our employment prospects. No matter what our privacy settings can we ever keep our data private?

Realistically the answer is no and that is why we should be careful about what we post online as potential employers will more than likely be able to view our posts and information. 77% of companies now use social media to screen candidates showing it’s increasing importance. However, do these employers have the right to view our online profiles and more importantly is it ethically right?

This PDF outlines the rules governing the vetting of potential employees by employers and clearly states that candidates must be informed that social media vetting may occur. There is however nothing to stop employers from vetting candidates in this way. In a recent survey 16% of people who said that they’d had a negative consequence from online activity said that they’d lost out on a job. Once again, this proves the power of social media in the job market


On the other hand, whilst many people focus on the benefits there are also pitfalls to vetting candidates using social media. The main downside is that if an employer finds out characteristics of an individual then this could be regarded as discrimination against a particular candidate. More importantly the process could be discriminatory to those who do not use social media sites thus providing less personal information to the employer. This is where the ethical aspect starts to creep in.

This could however be argued as false due to the recent election of Donald Trump as US president given his somewhat thought-provoking. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, even the Trump administration uses social media in vetting its candidates.

This TED talk on privacy makes the point that many people create YouTube videos ­­­­ they are alone but in fact there are people ‘watching and lurking’. It talks about how this is something that people are willing to do but only if no one else is watching. This idea, although true, is one that is often overlooked. Small snippets of 200 characters such as the tweets of Justine Sacco can be enough to lose a job and affect future employment prospects.


To conclude, employers are increasingly using social media to vet candidates and there is nothing legal to prevent them from doing this. Ethically however, this may be wrong as it is looking into someone’s personal life which they may segregate from their professional profile.

Other Sources:





One Comment

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  1. Hi Gus,

    I have to admit your blog has been a bit of a wake-up call. I have been hiding behind the idea that I’m protected by my social media’s privacy settings and it is now starting to scare me that this is not the case. I would have thought that by selecting the highest possible security settings I would be safe from strangers viewing anything I post.

    You mention that candidates who do not have social media pages may be discriminated against, but do you not think that not having these social media pages would mean that there is one less thing for candidates to worry about when applying for a job?

    Also, after reading your conclusion I wanted to ask you whether you believe there should be a law in place to prevent employers from vetting potential employees’ social media pages?



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