Is Your Social Networking Profile a Tool for Job Discrimination?

As the employment outlook slowly improves, jobseekers and potential employers are increasingly turning to social networking to search for the ideal opportunity. And while social networking can be a great tool in the job/employee hunt, PC World, is reporting that social networking may be fast becoming the new method of discrimination. In an interview with Human Resources consultant, Jessica Miller-Merrell, PC World explores some of the pitfalls employers and potential employees can fall into in the hunt for the perfect employment/employee.

Miller-Merrell points to Twitter as a potential discriminatory hotspot. Although African-Americans made up approximately 24 percent of Twitter users in 2010, the popular social networking tool is predominately White at 51 percent, Latinos comprised of 17 percent of Twitter’s audience. The trouble lies in the fact that if companies advertise a job opening on Twitter, a large number of minorities could miss out since they do not frequent the site.

Another potential misstep has to do with outright bias. Miller-Miller gives a number of disturbing hypothetical situations including a woman being passed over because of a pregnancy and a recruiter discovering that a potential candidate has a serious health condition. While both are egregious situations, what she neglected to discuss was race-based bias. On traditional online job applications, candidates have the option to decide whether or not they want to disclose their ethnicity. When headhunters or HR starts checking out social networks, that anonymity is stripped away. While the EEOC should prevent bias of any sort, people are still people and hiring bias still occurs and if a case of bias can be proven, it can prove to be costly for the company.

It should be noted, that Miller-Merrill doesn’t advise against companies not using social networking to get another perspective on potential employees. Social networks can be a very good determinant of whether or not a candidate is an ideal fit for the company. Does the candidate have the same political values as the business? Are they active in their community? Do they post negative comments about any of their past employers? At the end of the day, social networking profiles can be a great indicator of a person’s character, which alongside talent, drive, and potential are the only things any job should be screening for.

What do you think? Are you worried about a potential job passing you over for your race or any other bias? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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