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Is Social Media Your ‘Friend’ When Hiring Interns?

Written by Shawn Turner

In the days leading up to the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit on Feb. 21, we are running a special series of articles highlighting some of the sessions attendees will have the opportunity to attend. Today’s preview focuses on what companies need to know when using social media in vetting potential internship candidates.

Evaluating and vetting potential internship candidates is perhaps the most important step in the internship hiring process. The interview process provides some insight into whether a candidate will be a good cultural and skill-based fit with an organization. But to get a complete perspective of an intern’s makeup, employers are more frequently turning to an interview candidate’s social media profile to get a more complete picture of how that person might function within a company.

While there are many benefits to leveraging social media in this way, there are potential legal issues that could be opened as well. This is a topic James McWeeney II, associate attorney at Walter Haverfield, will explore at the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit during a plenary session titled, “Is Social Media Your ‘Friend’ When Hiring?”

We sat down with McWeeney recently to get a preview of what he plans to talk about during this session. Here’s what he had to say:

Social media benefits

People share a lot about themselves on social media and some of these posts are relevant to a hiring company that can gain insight into a candidate’s employment history, relationships with prior employers, the kind of work he or she has done in the past, and more.

These topics represent talking points that a candidate might not bring up during the interview process, but nonetheless represent valuable information when it comes time to making a final decision on the intern the company wants to bring onboard. However, there is some information floating out there on social media channels that could present legal concerns to a company if the hiring manager uses that information to make a hiring decision.

Social media dangers

The biggest thing that companies need to be able to do is recognize legally protected information on social media that hiring managers would otherwise not ask about. This includes such things as religion, genetic disposition, whether the candidate is pregnant, etc. There have been cases where people have challenged internship selection decisions claiming that they have discriminated against.

In addition, there could also be First Amendment concerns as it relates to an individual’s right to free speech in their social media posts. During his presentation, McWeeney will dive deeper into this topic as well as illuminating the difference between the information from social media companies can use during the selection process and that which is legally protected information.

You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about this topic as well as other internship program best practices at the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Click here to register today.

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