Social-Media-People Are you using Facebook to screen your job candidates? A new study suggests that doing so may be unwise and may alienate the talent you’re trying to woo to your company. Researchers at North Carolina State University(NC State) discovered not only that screening social media accounts is likely to alienate potential employees, but that there’s a much higher likelihood that job candidates may take legal action against the offending company if they feel their privacy has been violated by these actions.

According to an article posted on Business News Daily, “As part of the research, two separate studies were conducted. In the first study, 175 participants who had applied for a job online were told that their Facebook accounts had been reviewed for “professionalism,” and that a decision on whether they’d been hired was forthcoming. Two-thirds of those 175 participants reported finding the prospective employer less attractive because they felt thesocial media screening was an invasion of privacy that reflected poorly on the company.

“In the second study, 208 participants were asked to envision a hypothetical scenario in which a prospective employer reviewed their Facebook profiles for professionalism. Half of the participants were asked how they’d respond if they had gotten the hypothetical job, while the other half were asked how they’d respond if they hadn’t gotten the job.The researchers found that the job offer made little difference, with 60 percent of participants in both groups reporting a negative view of the potential employer due to a perceived privacy violation. In addition, 59 percent of those in the second study said they were significantly more likely than a control group that wasn’t screened to take legal action against the company for invasion of privacy.” Are you still determined to screen your candidates socially? If so, consider implementing the following steps to keep from alienating candidates.

1. Ask for permission before screening.

Asking candidates if they are comfortable with the screening before moving forward can decrease the likelihood that candidates will sue— and, if they refuse,while it may not be a good idea to strike them from consideration, but you may want to consider other candidates first.

2. Take it with a grain of salt.

Studies have shown that just because an employee posts on Facebook about drinking beer doesn’t mean that the employee is necessarily devoid of conscientiousness. Remember, you’re looking at a candidate’s conversations with their close friends and families— they’ll likely behave differently in the office.

3. Make sure you’re screening for the right reason.

Evaluate exactly why it is that you feel the need to screen candidates’ social accounts. If their personality fits with the company and their credentials and references are all good, is it really necessary to peer into their private lives? Consider whether or not it’s worth it to risk alienating your candidates, and revisit your hiring process from there.