Social media screening for employment is a common practice for many employers. But it’s important to make sure the process is fair and ethical. A survey found that 88 percent of employers and hiring managers would fire current employees for content posted on their social media accounts. It raises questions about privacy and discrimination.
Social media screening for employment is a powerful tool that can provide an HR team with valuable insights into their applicants. However, it is important to understand the boundaries and to set clear guidelines. A well-established process will help avoid screening for anything other than major red flags like illegal behavior, racist or abusive language, and any content that is totally against your company’s values.
A professional social media background check conducted by a reliable vendor will only look at publicly available pages and won’t ask for passwords or access. The best vendors will filter out protected class information and only present the most relevant, business-related information. The benefits of social media screening for employment are clear: it helps you to find out as much as possible about a candidate and allows you to make the best decision for your business. Just be sure always to back up your findings with references or otherwise carry out a thorough, multi-step screening process to prevent your decisions from being influenced by bias or assumptions. Remote work has only increased the need for employers to screen social media, and it’s important to have a consistent process in place so that each HR manager is not looking at an ad hoc basis. Recruiters may unwittingly breach privacy laws and anti-discrimination regulations without a firm and repeatable process.
The idea of employers rooting around their personal social media accounts can feel very invasive to candidates. Many believe that the views they express online are private and should not affect how well they perform in a professional setting. Others argue that this is an increasingly important tool for HR professionals and hiring teams to determine whether a candidate is the right fit for their company. When done incorrectly, social media screening can lead to discrimination claims and violate privacy laws. It is why it’s so important for HR and recruitment teams to be clear with their screening agencies and ensure that only publicly accessible information is checked.
An informational gold mine about a candidate may be found on social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok. From their photos to who they follow, what they post and their public engagement with other users, this can strongly indicate how they would interact in the workplace. In addition, the platforms make it easy for people to share revealing information such as alleged drug use or offensive content. While this information can prove insightful, it’s important for hiring teams to remember that it’s not always accurate and can easily be misinterpreted. People from different cultures, backgrounds and life experiences will use social media differently and may not share similar content. Social media posts can also be altered, and false information can be shared and misleading to a recruiter or hiring team.
While HR professionals need to take the time to evaluate a potential employee’s social media profile to catch any red flags, they need to do so within clearly defined guidelines. A background check agency can help by providing a set of clear rules that employers should stick to, such as only looking at publicly available information and not asking for passwords or accessing private content. It is also important for HR professionals to give potential candidates a warning that they will be doing social media checks and not surprise them with a search. Even though some of the information that can be accessed is a true depiction of an individual, it doesn’t give a complete picture of who they are. Social media gives only a snapshot of people in situations that they were not in control of and often didn’t accurately reflect the person’s professional image.
In addition, there are legal issues to consider when conducting social media screening for employment, particularly regarding discrimination and privacy. Negligent hiring and negligent retention claims can be brought against companies for failing to execute a good background check on employees. With social media searches so readily available, claiming that an employer could not have done a simple Google search on a candidate before hiring would be difficult.
Social media screening is not without its risks. It’s easy to fall into bias and interpret information incorrectly when evaluating candidates online. People from different backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences use social media differently. They may overshare personal details and post negative opinions about their employer or the company’s business practices. It’s also difficult to compare candidates with robust online profiles to those without. Many social media platforms are publicly accessible, and employees and job applicants may have information shared about them online that could be considered a violation of their privacy.
Despite the challenges, social media screening for employment can effectively evaluate candidates’ experience, background, and fit for a role. But it should only supplement other pre-screening tools, such as criminal background checks and reference checks. HR professionals should consider the pros and cons of social media screening carefully before implementing it in their hiring process. For example, it is important to notify candidates of the review and obtain consent before conducting a check. In addition, it is important to work with a quality social media screening vendor who will provide only actionable information and redact protected class information.