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As much as people like to keep professional and personal lives separate, that's becoming more difficult in this day and age. The extreme prevalence of social media and the open nature of the Internet mean that you're never more than a quick Google search away for friends, family members and yes, prospective employers. 

It's true that many job-seekers have active social media accounts, not all of which are necessarily savory from an employer's perspective. It's understandable that hiring managers want to make sure they're bringing the best candidates on board, and in many cases that may mean doing additional research trawling publicly available social media accounts.

But where does due diligence cross the line into invasion of privacy? There's a fine line between a company wanting to do its homework when considering an applicant and a business overstepping its bounds in its role in employees' personal lives. Social media-informed recruiting is a fact of today's business world, but there are a few guidelines that you should keep in mind as well. 

Social media research is becoming the norm
You're probably already diving into social media research for your hiring efforts, but if you aren't you may quickly fall behind in the recruiting game. A report from the Society for Human Resource Management and Ascendo Resources revealed that 87 percent of hiring managers indicated that it was either "very important" or "somewhat important" for job-seekers to maintain an active LinkedIn profile. 

This isn't just for vetting purposes, either – ignoring social media channels can often lead to missing out on some of the best talent. The SHRM report found that 65 percent of respondents hired candidates who were sourced through social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter. 

Don't overstep your bounds
Social media is certainly a valuable tool, but it carries enormous potential for misuse. Lawyer David Baffa told job-search site Monster that it's often better to wait until you've met a candidate face-to-face before digging up details on their social media accounts. This way, you can avoid forming any biases that may prevent you from making informed decisions based solely on a few Facebook photos. 

"You are less likely to be accused of making snap selection decisions or of relying on protected characteristics evident from a social network profile," Baffa told the source.

It's also important to keep in mind that not every job-seeker is active on social media. While this may become a legitimate decision-factor in the near future, some employers are concerned that recruiting and hiring largely based on social media may skirt too close to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission infractions for comfort.

If you're a small-business owner who needs help and guidance updating your recruiting and hiring strategies, PEO companies can help. HR outsourcing can provide your business with expert HR solutions without the high cost associated with maintaining an in-house department.