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Can employers use Social Media to assess candidates for a job position?

A growing number of employers admit to accessing the Facebook and other social media profiles of job candidates to more intimately assess their application.

In America, some corporations are going so far as to request candidates login details to access their Facebook account unrestricted, a practice which has been slammed by the Facebook chief privacy officer.

employers using social media to spy on potential employees

The issues of privacy and possible discrimination need to be considered when employers delve into the social media accounts of potential employees.

Posts relating to illicit substance abuse, violence, illegal behaviour or those generally of an uncouth nature, are likely have a detrimental effect on an applicant.

The two main issues that come to mind regarding the practice of viewing employees (or potential employees) social media activity, are privacy, and the possibility of discrimination.


It is highly unlikely that viewing publicly accessible information on Facebook would be seen as a breach of privacy by a potential employee.

In fact, some employees have been dismissed for posting offensive comments about their employers, or their workplace, on social media.

Where employers have taken more “creative” means of accessing a Facebook profile with tight privacy settings, a breach of privacy claim may be able to be made out more easily.

Discrimination concerns

The overriding concern with social media screening, is the risk of employers being influenced by information which is unrelated to the candidates likely job performance or merit.  It is likely that the information gleaned from social media is, for the most part, irrelevant in assessing a candidate’s likely job performance.  But even more dangerously for the employer, it may amount to discrimination, particularly if the employer was influenced by sensitive information such as sexual preference, ethnicity, political persuasion, religion, race or age.

What can you do?

As a potential employee, it is wise to be cautious about how your social media profile presents you.  If you do not agree with your profile being accessed by your employer, or a potential employer, you should review your privacy settings and ensure high restrictions are in place, so that only selected people are able to view your information.

If you are an employer, it is vital to assess your job candidates based on legitimate information directly related to merit, and the ability of a candidate to perform the job.

More information and tools

For more information and tools see:

For employers – Fair Work Australia Guide to Hiring Employees

For employees – Fair Work Australia Information for Employees

Employment Contracts

Social Media and Employment

My Growing Business Employment Bundle