Best Practices for Social Media Background Checks

Using social media background checks to screen prospective employees is becoming more common. In a recent study conducted by CareerBuilder, nearly 60 percent of employers used social media to vet prospective candidates in 2016. That translates to a 500 percent increase since 2006.

The same study found that nearly half of all employers who used search engines to research candidates found negative material about those candidates. This included provocative videos and photographs, drug use, and discriminatory comments and posts regarding race, religion, and gender.

While social media is an effective tool for HR professionals to gather information about prospective employees there is something to keep in mind.

Increased Risk Of Hiring Discrimination

Because people are so open on social media it is easy to find sensitive information about candidates. You can easily get their age, ethnicity, sexual preference, political beliefs, and religion. You cannot legally ask about these in an interview but you can get it from their social media profiles.Once it is seen, it will be difficult for you to prove that it had no influence on your hiring decision. Once it is seen, it cannot be unseen.

Best Practices

In order to stay on the right side of any legal action, you need to keep a few thing in mind.

  1. Have Social Media Background Checks Performed By HR Or A Third Party

All hiring managers and supervisors should not be involved in any social media background checks. In fact, the best practice is to use an outside vendor to conduct the search. Companies like Fama can keep you on the right side of the law and only show you relevant information you need to make a hiring decision.

2. Conduct Social Media Checks At The End Of The Hiring Process

Conduct social media checks near the end with all other background checks like credit history, criminal background, and education.

3. Look At “Public Information” Only

Many people have decided to keep their social media profiles private, opting to share with only close friends and family. If their profiles are set to private, a prospective employer cannot ask for passwords in order to see what they are posting. In fact, many states have made it illegal for employers to do this.

4. Determine When Conducting A Social Media Check Is Required

Performing a social media check on all employees may not be necessary. Perhaps you will only want to conduct a check on those employees who engage with customers or are in a public position, like a spokesperson.

5. Document Any Negative Information

Employers are allowed to disqualify a candidate who exhibits any illegal, harassing or dangerous behavior on social media. However, it would be prudent to document each of these incidents just in case any prospect who was not hired decides to sue based on some form of discrimination. It has been known to happen and the more documented proof you have, the better off you will be.

Social media background checks are here to stay, but at the moment there is no hard and fast rule on how to conduct them. Going forward, smart companies will develop a process as to when, how, and who will conduct these checks.