employee background check

Social media has opened up all sorts of options for people, and few haven’t used it to research people’s information at one time or another. Just because it’s easy to view information that’s in the public domain, however, it doesn’t make it acceptable to use that information as part of an employee background check, for hiring or any other related purpose. And yet, 70% of employers use social platforms to screen new hires, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

Here are some of the reasons why you shouldn’t follow suit:

The Data Isn’t Reliable

The information on a candidate’s social media profile is provided by the candidate personally, which means it’s not reliable, neutral data. The only thing you can count on getting from social media is a subjective idea of what the applicant thinks of themselves.

The Process Isn’t Standardized

Most recruiters and managers who use social media as a screening tool follow their own processes to do so. Without a uniform, clearly-defined process that has protocols and metrics, it can’t deliver the same kind of quality assessment a sound screening policy can.

Discrimination Can Happen Unintentionally

Candidates set up their social media profiles without the intention they will be used in an employee background check. This means they might have included information that companies can’t legally use in their decision-making. Gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, and political affiliations are all off-limits for employment purposes, but if a recruiter has seen such facts they might have to later prove the knowledge didn’t affect their decision.

Social Media Checkers Are Untrained

The majority of recruiters who are likely to use social media for screening purposes have not been trained in the right approach, or they wouldn’t do so in the first place. An untrained person is less likely to understand his or her risk for unconscious bias, as well as to miss cues that information is inaccurate or out of date.

Checks Aren’t Documented

When social media is used for candidate screening it’s unusual to create comprehensive documentation of the process. This means there’s no written record of what information was checked, what the weighting was for each item, and which factors resulted in the employment or rejection decision.

You Might Check the Wrong Person

Some people have common names. If you search for someone called Michael Bergman* on LinkedIn, for example, you’ll find almost 800 people with that name. Unless the candidate has specifically provided their actual profile address for the employee background check, you could easily end up screening the wrong person.

Racking Up the Risks

As a result of these and other factors, companies that use social media for candidate screening run the risk of facing litigation and having to prove why they took their decision. They also risk unauthorized use of private information (intentionally or unintentionally), unless they have a signed release to prove the candidate gave them permission to access their accounts.

Set Some Rules

Using social media for any hiring-related activities is a slippery slope, but if you aren’t able to prevent other employees from doing so, it’s wise to put in place some rules governing how they do it. These could include:

  • Standardizing the process to make sure it’s consistent in all cases, and train those who use it as part of an employee background check to follow the steps.
  • Selecting specific social media sites and allow only results from those sites to be included. LinkedIn and Twitter are commonly in use for business purposes, while Facebook is more personal. Instagram tends to have more of an overlap.
  • Document everything according to the standard process and keep it on record for the duration of the candidate’s employment, or five years in the case of a rejection.

For more information on the best way to conduct a reliable employee background check, please contact us at +1 (800) 295-7109.

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