Your Questions About Social Media Screening, Answered


Employee holding cellphone with social media apps on home screen

You’ve got questions about social media screening, like “What does Certn check for?” We’ve got your social media screening answers.

Below our background screening experts have weighed in with answers to questions from clients and candidates about the social media screening process. What is it? What shows up? What can you do to ensure that you’re running a compliant social media screening process?

Let’s get into it!

What Is Social Media Screening?

Social media screening, also known as a social media background check, works by using software to analyze public posts, images, and videos from a candidate’s online profiles and other social, public sites like open forums. In compliant social media screening, all the public content is compared against predetermined (aka, established or decided in advance) risk classifications to help you make more informed decisions. The keyword that keeps coming up here is “public.” No, private content isn’t searched in social media screening. At least not by a reputable, compliant background screening vendor!

As a client, anything that turns up in Certn’s social media screening is documented under one of the risk categories in the report for your consideration. Combined with a human analysis, the social media background check report can give you more insight into who you’re hiring and help identify potential risks for high-profile or public-facing roles.

Certn social media screening

Does Social Media Come Up on Background Checks?

You’re probably well aware that background checks confirm that candidates have the employment history, education, and professional references they claim to have. If you lead hiring, this is all standard pre-employment screening. Criminal records checks confirm whether someone has a criminal history that poses job-relevant risks. Social media background checks are a separate type of screening that you have to add on top of your standard checks.

Social media screening requires consent like your criminal record checks and education and employment verifications, but they look at online behaviour rather than checking institutional databases. In a nutshell: similar due diligence and investigative intent, same consent process, different databases consulted.

How do Employers Find Social Media Content?

After a candidate consents to our compliant social media screening and provides the required details, Certn uses technology to scan and analyze the person’s digital footprint – public social media content, news posts, and websites. Any flagged content is synthesized in an easy-to-read report for that our clients, employers, only review content that matches predetermined risk categories. Reports don’t contain pages and pages of every public post ever made (that’s not necessary and it’s a waste of time). Instead, reports contain flagged content based on risk categories set by the client and our analysts’ discretion.

Only public content is analyzed in our social media screening; there’s no super-secret hacking or scraping as part of Certn’s social media screening or any of our background checks.

What Shows Up on a Social Media Background Check?

A compliant social media screening process produces a report that shows public content from job-relevant risk categories. These categories might capture content such as racial slurs on Facebook or violent images on Instagram. Our social media screening doesn’t show every “like,” post, or comment – only what matters for the job you’re trying to fill. We work with you to come up with the risk categories based on what makes sense for you. Yes, we can customize keywords and phrases!

Can an Employer See Private Social Media?

No, only public information is searched in compliant social media screening. A social media background check doesn’t hack into, or scrape information from, private accounts. (We can’t speak to what happens in DIY social screening, but will say that a DIY approach can open up you and your company to risks such as bias in hiring.)

Certn’s Social Media Screening

To identify potential risk factors in public content, Certn’s technology analyzes things like the visual content of images, text content of written posts, and metadata. Anything that’s flagged according to set criteria is documented in the easy-to-read report social media screening report. The report shows up in the same dashboard our clients find other background screening results.

Certn social media screening report

Certn’s social media screening is even more comprehensive to help you make informed hiring decisions.

  • Word Cloud – The employer’s report includes a word cloud – a visual representation of the words most commonly used in the person’s public-facing content. The words that appear more frequently are given greater prominence. Talk about comprehensive background screening!
  • Timeline – Certn’s findings are mapped on a timeline to give clients more context. This helps you evaluate and/or observe trends, because it might matter whether content is from one or six years ago.

How Far Back Does a Social Media Check Go?

With Certn, up to seven years of publicly available content is searched as part of a comprehensive social media background check. Though, as we mentioned above, Certn’s findings are mapped on a timeline to give you more context so you can use your own discretion.

Book a demo today to learn how to stay compliant when checking a candidate’s online behaviour.

Benefits of Social Media Screening

We hear from our clients that they include social media screening in their background check program for three main reasons: peace of mind, more equitable hiring, and to save time.

  1. Peace of Mind – Social media screening is one more way to arm yourself with the right information to make a more informed decision.
  2. Equitable Hiring – With a consistent process, Certn searches for pre-set risk criteria, all candidates are screened by the same criteria – no matter what.
  3. Save Time – Save hours of scrolling networking sites and spend more time on what matters.

What Are Employers Looking for When They Conduct Social Media Screening?

Employers have to be careful about what information they look for and how they use it. Done compliantly, only job-relevant risk criteria is searched – what someone eats on their honeymoon in Maui or their partner’s race isn’t going to be flagged.

If public social media content is used in the decision not to hire a candidate, it should be directly related to the candidate’s ability to effectively perform the job requirements; otherwise, you put your company at risk of legal action.

Is Social Media Screening Legal?

Yes, if done compliantly and with consent, it’s legal for employers in the United States and parts of Canada (excluding Québec) to check public profiles and other public content. 

However, you open yourself up to legal action if you take a do-it-yourself approach and make hiring decisions based on findings that aren’t relevant to the job you’re trying to fill. Certn’s background screening is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and searches for job-relevant risk categories, flagging only the content that matches the predefined criteria.

Read more in: How to Conduct Social Media Screening Ethically

Social media screening on cellphone

Social Media Screening with Certn

In a world where trust is key, Certn’s makes it faster and easier to make informed hiring decisions. For more best practices for building a robust social media screening program, to talk to one of our background screening experts.

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