Medical practices can get information on potential employees from Facebook or Twitter, but they should know what to watch for and what’s off-limits.

Posted June 3, 2013 | By Karen Caffarini, writer for American Medical News

As the medical director of a health services group that serves racially diverse patients in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, Ravi Grivois-Shah, MD, always conducts a quick search of physicians he’s interested in hiring on various social media sites and blogs to see if anything worrisome surfaces before offering them a position.

“I want to make sure what they say on those sites doesn’t go against our mission and they wouldn’t be an obvious embarrassment to the organization,” said Dr. Grivois-Shah, a family physician.

With the social networking site Facebook claiming 1 billion users and the business networking site LinkedIn touting 175 million users, experts say social media has become a part of just about everybody’s life. In considering hires, physicians are generally free to scour these kinds of sites for potential red flags or greater insight, as long as the information can be viewed publicly.

“What they find can be part of the decision-making process,” said Peter Cebulka, director of recruiting for physician staffing firm Merritt Hawkins. “I see it the same as a credit report.”

What is less acceptable — and in some states illegal — is requiring a job candidate to provide the password to their social media account, or using personal information protected by law against the candidate. But even with information that is available, experts said physicians need to have some idea what to look for before they search for a potential candidate’s social media sites.

Looking for “degrees of offensiveness”

Thirty-seven percent of companies use social networking sites to research job candidates, according to a 2012 nationwide survey by Harris Interactive. Fifteen percent of employers who do not use social media to research candidates said companies prohibit the practice. Eleven percent said they planned to start using social media to screen candidates.

Of those who use social media, 65% want to see if candidates present themselves professionally, 51% want to determine if a candidate is a good fit for the company culture, and 45% want to learn more about a candidate’s qualifications. Twelve percent said it’s to look for reasons not to hire a candidate. The survey, conducted for CareerBuilder, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals in various industries and company sizes.

Jack Smith, president of a Milwaukee recruiting firm, said physician practices search social media because they are looking for consistency in culture and want to determine that the person they are hiring has the same qualities they think that person has.

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