The debate about whether employers should vet prospective candidates’ social media history has continued with a new article by a prominent HR expert.

Concerns about discrimination have emerged; for example, younger Umbrella Company Employees and other job candidates below the age of 30 may be particularly affected by such vetting, as they are more inclined to have used social media networks than their older counterparts. Injudicious posts can have serious repercussions for job prospects: Kent’s youth police and crime commissioner, 17-year-old Paris Brown, was effectively forced to stand down a week after being appointed after it emerged that she had previously tweeted racist and homophobia remarks.

Writing for HR magazine, the managing director of Zenon HR Consulting, Julia Tybura, suggests that the police and media over-reacted in this case, effectively bullying a teenager into resigning. She does not rule out the use of social media vetting as one among a range of methods recruiters can legitimately use to determine candidate suitability, however.

Explaining that she personally adheres to the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life (integrity, openness, accountability, selflessness, honesty, integrity and leadership), Ms Tybura cites a US study from 2012 in which 37% of the companies surveyed admitted using social media networks to screen candidates. As she puts it: “Why? To see if the candidates present themselves professionally – and 34% of those companies found reasons for not appointing.”

Provided employers recognise that all section tools – including psychometrics, graphology and social media analysis – are highly subjective, and they take care to adopt a pragmatic, integrated approach, it is reasonable for them to assume, Ms Tybura argues, that “everything on Twitter is in the public domain”.

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