It would not be unusual to have a social media policy which allows an employer to review a candidate’s social media profile during the recruitment process.

Such a policy might say:

“We may use internet searches to perform due diligence on candidates in the course of recruitment. Where we do this, we will act in accordance with our data protection and equal opportunities obligations.”

The second half of this policy points to some of the risks involved in relying on social media in the recruitment process. Where an employer becomes aware of a candidate’s age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy, religion/belief, race and/or sexual orientation, they may find themselves on the defensive when an unsuccessful candidate alleges that having this information led to discrimination. Other obvious examples where problems might arise could be trade union activism or issues with a previous employer over whistle-blowing.

A sensible approach might be to identify what you want to achieve by carrying out an internet search and limit your enquiries to only what is necessary to achieve this aim. For example, some roles require a public profile and it would be understandable to examine what profile that person already has and how they manage their privacy settings.

To reduce the risk of inferences of discrimination, employers may want to consider:

  • Avoid carrying out social media checks until after the initial interview stage.
  • Avoid taking things at face value and ask for verification of any legitimate negative information before relying on it.
  • Avoid “friend” or similar requests  to connect with candidates to prevent breaches of data protection.


To speak to one of our employment solicitors about recruitment, social media policies or data protection, please call us on 01924 387 110.

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