The Truth about Social Media and Your NP Job Search

Will your Instagram account affect your nurse practitioner candidacy?

Whether you’re on the hunt for your first nurse practitioner job or are making a career change, you’ve undoubtedly heard your fair share of warnings about how your social media profiles can affect your chances of landing an NP position. But is it really true? Do potential employers really investigate your social media presence as part of their hiring process? 

As intrusive as it may seem, given the nature of the profession, it’s understandable that healthcare employers want added assurance that an NP is a good fit for the position; that he or she doesn’t abuse any substances, has a good level of maturity and judgement and that there aren’t any other red flags that could create problems for the organization or jeopardize patient care. Since looking into an NPs social media is a convenient way to vet candidates, it’s becoming a more tempting and common practice amongst hiring managers. Convenient as it may be, however, prospective employers do still have to abide by legal and ethical practices when they look at your social media; and mishandling the information they obtain can get them into serious hot water with employment laws. 

Here are three truths about your social media accounts and their role in the hiring process.

Can a prospective employer check my social media without my consent?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employment background checks include information from a variety of sources, including social media. Regardless of how any information is obtained about a person’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics or mode of living, the rules are the same; so if an employer is using a third party company to conduct a background check that will include investigating your social media accounts, both the employer and the company providing the report to the employer must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This means that they must obtain your written consent first. Furthermore, they must also comply with the other FCRA sections too, like providing you with an “advance notice of any adverse action taken on the basis of the reports”. They may also be required to give you an opportunity to explain certain findings.

If a hiring manager isn’t using a third party to conduct a background check, they don’t legally have to obtain your consent to look into your online presence; however, without the use of a third party company, the employer opens themselves up to a plethora of legal risks associated with prying into a candidate’s social media account as part of its hiring process. 

Is it legal for prospective employers to ask for your login information?

Although there are not currently any federal laws that explicitly prohibit a prospective or current employer from asking you to provide usernames and passwords for social media accounts, over twenty states have enacted legislation in regards to such and more states are expected to follow suit. Even if you’re not in one of these states, the prospective employer could still be violating state privacy laws, federal computer privacy laws, and a multitude of others by asking for access to your accounts. Furthermore, asking you to log into your social media accounts during an interview falls under the protections of these laws as well. Not to mention, if they ask for your login information and you do hand it over, it could put you in violation of many of the major social media sites’ terms of service. 

Given these facts, this doesn’t mean that a potential employer won’t ask for your login information; perhaps they don’t know the laws surrounding the subject. While you certainly don’t want to offend the interviewer by educating them on the laws, you shouldn’t be coerced into handing over your login information either for fear of losing out on the position. So, if the question does arise, you can politely decline by stating that your personal social media pages are like a diary; while you are not comfortable giving them access, they are welcome to bring up their page and then search for you; in this way, they’ll only see what information you’ve made public. You can also say that you would be glad to pull up a public view of your business profile on a site such as LinkedIn. 

What information from social media can an employer use during the hiring process?

State and federal laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against prospective employees based on various protected characteristics; these laws also include information that can be found on the candidate’s social networking site or personal blog as it relates to their race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, and immigration or citizenship status. As such, hiring managers should wait until after meeting you face-to-face to investigate your online profiles to avoid any unintentional biases. Their failure to do so could get them into major legal trouble with antidiscrimation laws.

While they can’t legally base their decision not to hire on the aforementioned protected classes, they can use any other information from your social media that is public; so you should adjust your profile settings accordingly so that certainly information can’t be viewed by people who aren’t your friends on Facebook and delete any tags of photos that don’t paint you in the best light. 

While hiring managers do look at your social media accounts when considering your candidacy, there are many ways their doing so can get them into trouble. In spite of this though, you should clean up your online profiles when you’re searching for a nurse practitioner position. Be sure to adjust your privacy settings so that only approved friends can see certain information.