Social Media Screening

Social media background screening is a process in which an employer checks a job candidate’s social media accounts and online presence when they are looking to hire them. This can help the employer get a clearer unfiltered picture of the candidate’s character, interests, and online behaviour.

This is often performed as part of a more detailed background check as part of the larger screening process.  

There are several ways that employers can conduct a screening of this type. For example, they may review the candidate’s public social media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to see what the candidate has shared about themselves and their views on various issues. 

They may also use search engines such as Google and other online tools to find information about the candidate that is not readily available on their social media accounts.

While social media background screening can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s character and interests, it also raises some fundamental concerns about privacy and fairness. 

Some employers may be tempted to use the information found on a candidate’s social media accounts to make biased or discriminatory hiring decisions, even if the characteristics of viewpoints that are shown have absolutely no relevance to the job they would be doing. This is a complex issue and it can be difficult to determine where the line should be drawn. 

There are several red flags that might come up when an employer is conducting a social media background screening. Some examples include:

  1. Inappropriate or offensive content: If a candidate has shared inappropriate or offensive content on their social media accounts, such as racist or sexist comments, this could raise concerns about their judgment and suitability for the job.
  2. Lack of professionalism: If a candidate’s social media accounts show a lack of professionalism, such as by using vulgar language or posting unprofessional photos, this could raise concerns about their ability to represent the company in a positive way.
  3. Misrepresentation of qualifications: If a candidate has claimed to have certain qualifications or experience on their resume or job application, but this information is not reflected on their social media accounts or cannot be verified through other sources, then this could be a red flag. See our related article on background checks for more information on this. 
  4. Illegal or unethical behaviour: If a candidate’s social media accounts show evidence of illegal or unethical behaviour, such as participation in criminal activities or fraud, this could raise serious concerns about their suitability for the job. This would be particularly pertinent if the candidate is involved with handling money or sensitive financial information. 
  5. Dishonesty or lack of integrity: If a candidate’s social media accounts show evidence of dishonesty or a lack of integrity, such as by lying about their qualifications or experience, this could be a red flag.

It’s important to bear in mind that not all red flags that come up during social media background screening will necessarily disqualify a candidate. However, they may raise concerns that the employer will want to address during the hiring process, either through additional verification or by discussing the issue directly with the candidate.

To avoid these problems, it’s important for employers to follow best practices when conducting a social media background screening. A key practice would be to obtain the candidate’s consent before reviewing their social media accounts and only consider information that is relevant to the job (which is easier said than done). Employers should also be acutely aware of any legal limitations on what they can ask for and verify during the hiring process.

Overall, social media background screening can be a useful tool for employers when screening candidates and can allow you to see a more accurate and unfiltered view.  However, it’s important for employers to use the information found in a responsible and ethical manner, and to treat all candidates fairly and equally.