A determining factor in hiring a new employee should be the passing of a thorough pre-employment background check. Once the interview process is complete and the potential new hire/s are selected, the process of running background checks not only helps verify resumes, but also assists in filling in gaps or giving additional information you may not have been privy to during the interview process. A standard background check typically covers employment, education, criminal history, credit check, motor vehicles, and licenses. There are numerous pros to running background checks using social media data. Conducting social media background checks should be highly considered no matter the size of your company. A 2015 study by CareerBuilder determined that 48% of hiring managers researching job applicants on social media discovered information that prevented them from hiring the candidate.

The Benefits of Social Media Background Checks:

  • Notifying potential new hires of mandatory background checks helps pre-screen potential new hires who know they would not pass the check
  • Increased quality of new hires
  • Hiring the right person decreases turnover
  • Reduce workplace violence by employing people without violent backgrounds
  • Avoid negative publicity by hiring people who share your businesses moral code
  • Hiring quality employees decreases insurance liabilities and workman compensation claims by reducing employee dishonesty


Effective Screening: Understanding Social Media Background Checks

Going through the interview process you are given the opportunity to ask questions based on your applicants resume and you may be trained to assess their responses and micro expressions; however, you can only construct your questions based on the information you are provided via your applicant’s resume and your business goals. Your potential new hire can also be educated in providing the responses to your interview questions that they know you want to hear and thus they may appear to be the best fit for your company.  However, after conducting a standard background check you may find out they lied about their resume, education, or criminal history; therefore, painting a completely different picture of your potential hire. To the opposite effect, a social background check could help confirm the person would be a great fit for your company. You should familiarize yourself with what hiring managers look for when implementing social screening.

Standard background checks provide a sense of confidence when faced with selecting new hires and help give you a more detailed picture of the person you are about to employ; however, is this the full picture? There is another source for information that could help provide even more insight into your potential new hires unfiltered lifestyle.

That source is social media.

Some employers may think this is an invasion of privacy or too risky; however, when done correctly social media background checks of public profiles can help you determine if a candidate is a good fit for your company. People tend to let their guard down and feel more like themselves on social media than they do in a formal interview allowing you learn more about a candidate. Incorporating social media into your background checks can help spot red flags or be the direct factor as to why you hired someone.

Social Screening Red Flags:

  • Bad mouthed prior bosses, employers, colleagues
  • Inappropriate photos or content with suggestive material
  • Information regarding drug use or excessive drinking/partying which can affect their work productivity and work place safety
  • Poor communication skills
  • Discriminatory/derogatory comments regarding gender, race, religion, politics ect.
  • Falsified their qualifications
  • Lied about an absence from a previous job

Reasons To Hire After Social Media Background Checks:

  • Social media content supported their job qualifications
  • Potential new hire received awards and accolades
  • They have a professional all around online image
  • Others posted great references about the potential new hire
  • Great communication skills
  • Wide range of interests
  • Involved within their community or volunteer their time


Social Media Background Checks: Know The Risks

The addition of social media into your background checks can be beneficial and help you paint the whole picture of your candidate. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pitfalls of finding out too much information via social media. Often times people place false information online on purpose or post content that does not truly reflect their way of thinking/lifestyle. You have to take the information you are finding with a grain of salt and look for consistency of certain types of posts. Also, be sure to do your homework and familiarize yourself with the potential risks of using social media in the hiring process.

When conducting social media background checks you cannot display any bias if you see information regarding a person’s age, race, religion, or lifestyle. This information cannot be used to reject someone who is well qualified for a position, the moment you let this sensitive information determine if a person is suited for your company, it becomes a discrimination issue.

Social Media Background Checks

It’s Imperative That You Know The Laws That Govern The Use Of Social Media Background Checks When Hiring Employees

The way around any legal issues with incorporating social media into your background checks is to hire an outside source to conduct the searches and prepare a report with relevant information only. This person serves as a filter and helps maintain your businesses code of ethics by not allowing for unintentional or intentional biases by your hiring agent.

We strongly encourage any employer, recruiter, or human resource professional using or considering employment background checks to educate themselves with the law. We recommend you start by carefully reviewing the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission publication on What Employers Need To Know About Background Checks

In the end, standard background checks should be a must for all employers of all sizes. The addition of social media into your background check should be a decision based on some of the following reasons:

The position level you are hiring for (the higher the position the more likely I would add social media to my check).

The clientele your new hire will be interacting with (children, the elderly, the disabled, or high power executives, I would consider social media in your background checks).

Your company’s history of employee issues (if you have in house employee problems consider social media checks).

Gaining an unfiltered or unscripted peek into a job candidates professional and public life through background checks with social media searches, may be a necessary addition to your hiring process.