March 13th, 2023

Best Practices for Pre-Employment Social Media Screening

2 min read

Over 70% of employers believe pre-employment social media screening is a helpful way to vet candidates and 70% admit to doing it, but a do-it-yourself approach can spell danger.

A DIY approach can create unnecessary risks for your organization.

As businesses increasingly rely on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to connect with customers and promote their brands, it’s also becoming more common for hiring managers to check candidates’ social media profiles to evaluate potential employees.

Many employers don’t train hiring managers on how to screen candidates’ online presences, so you might stumble upon online content meant for friends. Worse, you can create unnecessary risks of legal exposures for your organization if you fail to comply with anti-discrimination laws in your jurisdiction.

Benefits of Social Media Screening

Social media screening can provide a range of benefits to employers. By evaluating a candidate’s online presence, you may gain insights that may not be apparent from a résumé or interview. For example, a candidate’s online writing may provide extra evidence of their attention to detail, creativity, or thought leadership skills. 

Risks of Social Media Screening

While you might glean extra insights during the hiring process, it’s also important to be aware of the risks. One of the main risks is the potential for discrimination. 

Through online screening you might get access to personal information that’s protected by anti-discrimination laws, such as a candidate’s race, gender, or religion. Given this, you need to be careful to avoid making hiring decisions based on these protected characteristics. 

Additionally, it can create privacy concerns for candidates. While public profiles are fair game for screening, employers should avoid asking for access to private profiles or engaging in covert monitoring. You might make candidates feel uncomfortable or violated if they believe their personal lives are being scrutinized without their knowledge or consent, not to mention it can lead to negative employer branding and legal consequences.

social media screening on cellphone

Best Practices for Social Media Screening

While checking online activity can be a valuable tool to get more insight into who you’re hiring, it’s important to approach the practice with sensitivity and caution. It’s also important to follow the guidelines in your jurisdiction. 

When done correctly, it can give you more job-relevant insights into a candidate. When done incorrectly with a do-it-yourself approach and subjective judgments, you open up your company up to unnecessary risks of legal exposures.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Consistency is Key 
    Establish a clear set of guidelines, like job-relevant risk categories, and apply them consistently across all candidates. 
  2. Respect Candidate Privacy 
    Candidates can consent to having their public profiles searched as part of your hiring process, but it’s important to respect candidates’ privacy and avoid digging too deep into their personal lives. It’s illegal to ask for access to private profiles or to engage in covert monitoring.
  3. Consider the Context 
    When evaluating a candidate’s online presence, consider the context in which the posts were made. Were comments from a personal account or a professional one? Were the posts made in the context of a heated debate or as part of a larger cultural conversation? Six years ago? Understanding the context can help you make more nuanced judgements.
  4. Don’t Ignore Bias 
    This type of online background screening can be useful, but it’s important to be aware of the potential for bias in hiring. Make sure you’re evaluating candidates based on their qualifications and abilities, and other job-relevant criteria, rather than personal factors such as race, gender, or religious affiliation.
  5. Communicate Clearly 
    If you do engage in screening, be sure to communicate your policies clearly to candidates. Let them know what information you’ll be looking for and how it will be used in the hiring process.

Social Media Screening Tools

Overall, social media screening can be a valuable tool for evaluating candidates, but it’s important to approach it with care and sensitivity. By establishing clear guidelines, respecting privacy, considering context, and avoiding bias, you can use the findings to make informed hiring decisions and find the best fit for your company.

Book a demo to talk to one of our background screening experts about how you can build this into your background check process.

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