Should you be screening Candidates’ Social Media Profiles?
Thanks to technological advancements, more and more employers have started screening applicants’ social media profiles. Checking the digital footprints of prospective employees has become much more straightforward – enter a candidate’s name into any social media network, and you will have access to a plethora of information on that applicant.
Although “social media background checks” has become more prevalent, some recruitment specialists advise against this practice when making hiring decisions.
If you have decided to screen applicants’ social media profiles, it’s a good idea to make sure that the way you conduct social media checks is well planned out, transparent, and fair.
Below, we look at social media screening, understand the advantages, and take a look at some best practices.
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What is a Social Media Screening?
When shortlisting applicants for employment, companies are increasingly turning to social media screening before hiring as a precautionary measure.
Reviewing an applicant’s social media profiles and their behavior, including what they post, like, and comment on, is often seen as a necessary step by some organizations, in the recruitment process.
LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and WhatsApp are just a few sites they are likely to check. The purpose of social media background screening is to identify any warning signs.
Why Consider Social Media Monitoring of Employees
The social media footprint that a person leaves behind has a plethora of information about that person’s character. This information can be used to hire employees who are a better fit for your firm.
The social media background check tends to investigate an applicant’s online activities in search of actions that could put you or jeopardize your organization
Some examples are discussing unlawful actions, making hateful comments, engaging in violent or aggressive conduct, distributing sexually explicit content, or disclosing sensitive information.
Such checks may also identify the following:
- Drug-Related Images
- Explicit/Racy Images
- Hate speech
- Insults and bullying
- Obscene language
- Threat of Violence
- Toxic Language
- Violent Images
Should you be screening an Applicant’s Social Media?
Employers who do social media screens may acquire applicant information that they are not legally or morally permitted to evaluate during the hiring process. Gender, color, ethnicity, religion, political opinions, sexual orientation, disability, and pregnancy status are all included.
According to some experts, what people say on social media has nothing to do with their job performance and should be ignored. However, an alternative view held by other experts is that social media screening should be deferred until third-party background checks are completed.
While it is legal to do a lawful social media screening, businesses must ensure that any social media background check they perform is compliant.
Effectively, this means that any social media profile screening must:
- Ensure it obtains express consent from the candidate/employee to do the social media screening.
- Only display business-related information when presenting findings, and any protected data is redacted.
- Not use hacking, scraping, or other illegal or unethical methods to access social profiles.
- Make a good-faith attempt, as required by law, to guarantee the correct individual is being evaluated (for example, ensuring you’re viewing information on the “right” John Smith).
Most significantly, social media background checks must be conducted in a compliant manner. Hiring managers who perform social media background checks will come across personally identifiable information (PII) and business-related “actionable” content. Any personally identifiable information must be redacted. This can include information about a person’s ethnicity, color, age, sex, religion, or handicap categories.
While preserving the job applicant’s right to confidentiality, it is vital to ensure that the information is necessary to make more informed judgments on the hiring process.
Social Media Screening: Next Steps
The practice of screening the social media profiles of potential employees is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Particularly since it can provide some insight for businesses.
However, it may raise legal and ethical difficulties for your company. As such, outsourcing your background checks may be a better option, especially for small and medium businesses that don’t want to end up with legal problems.
Using background check services will also help eliminate the subjectivity that comes with assessing candidates’ social media profiles yourself.
Social Media Screening: Best Practices
All these considerations aside, social media screening can be a valuable part of recruitment. However, if you’re venturing into social media screening for the first time, here are some best practices you can follow:
Establish what you are looking for
Establish what you intend to achieve by reviewing applicants’ social media profiles. Aimlessly scrolling through a candidate’s social media page wastes time.
Reviewing a candidate’s public social media profile may provide some valuable insights. You may also be able to visit their professional recommendations and cross-reference their résumé with online information on a network like LinkedIn.
However, having a pre-established idea of what you don’t want to discover is critical. Consider what may not be acceptable in a candidate’s profile and the red flags that rule them out.
Be Fair and Consistent
You must treat all candidates fairly. If you check one candidate’s social media account, you should do the same for other candidates.
Also, be consistent in your search methods. To eliminate bias, use the same procedure and platforms.
Failure to be consistent can result in discrimination, and you may break the law. So you might want to set your process in stone by documenting it for all relevant staff members.
Keep it Professional
The purpose of social media screening for employment should be, well, employment.
Candidates should be able to share their personal opinions and views on social networking networks. These may not always align with yours, so it’s vital that you do not mix your criteria with your organization’s.
Nonetheless, you should look out for any significant red signals. Consider unlawful activity, racist or abusive language, or anything else that contradicts your company’s principles.
Never Screen without the Applicant’s Consent
Before recruiting new staff, make them aware of your screening procedure. Make a written policy that you can share with applicants that outlines what you will be looking for, who will view the findings and any privacy concerns.
Avoid reviewing Profiles prior to an Interview
Before meeting them in person, do not be lured to research prospects on social media. You will undoubtedly develop prejudices that will jeopardize the fairness of the recruiting process.
It is preferable to wait till after the interview has taken place. This way, you’re augmenting rather than replacing your real-life experience.
Don’t put too much value on social media profiles
Social media screening can help you understand a candidate’s overall image. However, it shouldn’t significantly contribute to your recruiting assessment or judgments.
Social media profiles, as well as the statements they include, can be forged. So, approach everything with a healthy dosage of skepticism and, whenever possible, back it up with references.
Never Make Assumptions
Don’t think you can learn everything about someone from their social media page.
Social media provides a peek at a person but does not provide context for a candidate’s life or experience. Even when there is a lot of information accessible, profiles aren’t always an accurate picture of who a person is.
At all costs, don’t send Friend Requests
Without question, this blurs the border between personal and professional.
You could be enticed to learn more about a candidate who has a personal account. However, issuing a buddy request places prospective workers in a difficult position.
They may feel obligated to accept the request even if they don’t want to. This results in an abuse of your authority during the hiring process.