Social Media

Social media background checks – or “cyber vetting” – offer employers a glimpse into their candidates that may be difficult to discover during an interview. These screens can reveal compromising pictures, inappropriate comments, and other information that may affect the candidate’s future in the company.

To avoid these risks, ensure your social media screening policy includes best practices. Here are five tips to help you do so:

Be Consistent

Most of us have ‘Googled’ someone at some point to find out more about them, so it’s no surprise that over 75% of employers use social media checks during the recruitment process. These searches allow organizations to gain a more in-depth view of candidates and determine whether their values align with the organizations.

However, when performed incorrectly, these searches can lead to discriminatory practices. Organizations must follow regulations, legislation, and HR best-practice when performing them. These include ensuring that only public posts are reviewed, never asking for passwords or accepting friend requests, and excluding protected characteristics such as age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, and relationship status.

Establishing clear, standardized guidelines and ensuring you only review content pertinent to the job is also important. This helps prevent social media screening from becoming snooping and creates a fair and equitable process for all. In addition, it reduces the likelihood of unconscious bias. Research has shown that an applicant’s perception of justice in their employer’s screening practice can impact job acceptance decision-making, morale, job satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behavior.

Be Clear About Your Policy

When hiring managers are responsible for running social media screening, they need to be trained on the best practices and what information is acceptable and not acceptable. They should also be clear about what they can and cannot consider applying to their decision-making process while evaluating candidates.

While it is possible to find a lot of information about applicants on their social media profiles, this can be challenging to interpret and often needs to provide a full picture of the applicant. Additionally, social media profiles are personal and can often feel invasive for employers to be rooting around.

This is especially true if the employer is trying to use social media to evaluate protected class categories, including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and disability status. Employers need to be clear that they should not be evaluating this type of information during the hiring process and that it is more appropriate for third-party background check companies to do so. This will avoid legal issues related to EEOC and FCRA violations. Moreover, it will help prevent the time and cost-intensive errors that can occur when HR teams handle these checks internally.

Don’t Mix Your Criteria

Social media searches can help employers assess candidates’ overall image and see how they conduct themselves outside the office. They can also show how well a candidate communicates, which is important for roles that require written communication. However, the search must be based on job-related, specific, and non-discriminatory criteria.

Applicants may feel burdened and judged by their employer looking into their personal lives through their likes, interests, friends, photos, and public musings. This can cause them to feel untrusted, irritated, and censored. It can also blur the line between personal and professional life, which could improve morale, trust, or loyalty.

Many people’s privacy settings are set to private, making it difficult to access their full picture. In addition, information on social media can be easily manipulated or taken out of context, which makes it difficult to draw accurate conclusions about a candidate’s qualifications and experience. For these reasons, a social media background check should only be conducted with the candidate’s permission.

Don’t Mix Your Criteria With Third-Party Screenings

Social media screening software can help employers find valuable information about potential candidates, but it’s important to ensure that the monitoring people stay moderate. Suppose hiring managers log into the social media accounts of their applicants. In that case, they risk seeing information (such as religious beliefs or political views) that could not be considered in a hiring decision lawfully. They may influence their choice of which candidate to hire.

Specialized software can help eliminate this problem, ensuring that employers only access information relevant to the job in question. However, it’s still important to develop a policy that demonstrates that social media screening is undertaken reasonably and consistently and documents the process in case of legal difficulties. In addition to social media screening, employers should use other means for selecting and hiring the right candidate for the job, such as reference checks, background checks, and interviews. This will ensure the company makes the best possible choice for its business while treating all candidates fairly.

Don’t Mix Your Criteria With Reference Checks

A person’s social media footprint leaves a plethora of information about their character. Whether discussing unlawful activities, distributing sexually explicit content, or sharing sensitive information, social media can indicate what that individual’s like and how they may act in the workplace.

Reviewing an applicant’s social media profiles can provide useful information to a company, but this is only true if the results are relevant to their hiring decisions. For example, a candidate’s interest in dolls or support for a political party has little bearing on their ability to work in your firm.

It’s also important to avoid evaluating applicants based on protected classes, such as race or gender. To do this, it’s best to wait until after the in-person interview and only use search engines that will eliminate any information regarding these types of groups. This way, it’s less likely that an employer will be accused of discrimination in a lawsuit for asking inappropriate questions about a job candidate. Using specialized software to ensure the screening process is conducted consistently and objectively.