Are Social Media Background Checks Worth the Risk? 21 Aug 2019


Businesses have a love-hate relationship with social media. Many companies rush to hire the best social media managers and build a large following. In contrast, other companies live in fear of social media. What’s scary about a social platform?

Your company’s social media account has a dark side. For every opportunity social media creates, a hidden danger comes along with it. Social media can create new connections for your business, but it can also ruin your reputation.

Employees who post offensive messages on social media damage your company’s image. In Philadelphia, 13 police officers were fired after posting offensive comments on social media. These messages seriously harmed the police force’s reputation. Locals began to question whether they could trust police officers to protect them.

In a race to protect their companies, 70 percent of employers check their candidates’ social media before they hire. Unfortunately, social media checks can be as dangerous for businesses as social media. Is checking your applicant’s social media worth it?

Social Media Reveals Problems Before You Have to Deal With Them

Social media searches confirm whether an applicant can handle the job. They reveal what your applicant’s personality is really like, as opposed to the limited version you see in an interview. When you get the whole picture of your candidate’s character, you’ll know if this is the person best suited for the job.

A social media check also vouches for the candidate’s qualifications. Prospective employees often describe their job history and education on social media. Checking an applicant’s skill set on social media checks can make it easier to find the right hire.

Business-oriented sites, like Linkedin, showcase applicants’ professional skills and work history. Fifty percent of employers who use social media checks hope to confirm that applicants have a professional profile. What should you look for? Look for candidates who cultivate a professional-looking online presence and contribute valuable content. They demonstrate that they care about their job and industry.

Social media can point out your candidate’s positive qualities, but most employers use it to uncover negatives. Why? A social media check exposes hiring hazards before they derail your business. For instance, does an applicant have a habit of lying about being sick and then posting vacation photos? If so, you might think twice about hiring them.

Social media searches also discover significant issues, like drug or alcohol addiction. Job applicants who post photos of themselves abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs have a dangerous problem. Their problem could become yours if they get hired. You need to prevent applicants with substance abuse problems from corrupting your business.

Addiction isn’t the only issue. Candidates may use social media to post insensitive or offensive posts. Racist and sexist messages need to be taken seriously because these attitudes can bleed into the rest of your workplace. They can also damage your business’s reputation.

Social media checks seem to solve all your hiring concerns. Are social media searches the perfect solution?

Tread Carefully — Social Media Searches Can Backfire

Social media background checks, like social media itself, can deceive you. Misusing social media searches creates more hiring problems than it solves. Why are social media searches so dangerous?

Social media accounts are often private. Many states have laws against forcing applicants to give you access to their private accounts. If your social media checks are too zealous, you’ll overstep your legal bounds and end up with a lawsuit.

Even public accounts can get you into legal trouble. Stumbling across protected characteristics like gender, race, sexual orientation, or disabilities on someone’s profile is dangerous. You cannot consider this information when hiring. Fighting hiring-discrimination lawsuits drains your resources and scares away applicants.

You don’t want to overstep legal regulations, but you may need to run a social media background check. How can you perform social media checks legally?

A hiring professional follows a standard process when running a social media check on job applicants

Set Up Policies to Protect Your Applicants’ Privacy

You can avoid costly mistakes by creating a standard process before you run any social media searches. Here are some items to consider for your social-media-check policy:

  • Research your state’s laws. Make sure you’re running the check at the right time in the hiring process. Generally, you have to have invited the applicant for an interview or given them a conditional job offer before running background checks. Don’t ask applicants for passwords or access to private accounts.
  • Have someone else run the search. An employee or outside party can conduct the check, but they need to understand the associated legal requirements. They should not be involved in making hiring decisions. However, they can give you a report detailing information you can consider.
  • Understand what information you’re allowed to use for hiring. Stay away from data that’s protected by law. Protected information includes gender, race, disabilities, health conditions, religion, age, sexual orientation, and genetic information.
  • Only consider information relevant to the job. If data doesn’t relate to the role or its duties, throw it out.

Social media searches come with risks, just like any other background check. Using them correctly will help you hire without being afraid of the risks.

Take the Risk Out of Your Social Media Checks

Social media can scare businesses. Employees who use social media irresponsibly could compromise your company’s reputation. They can also damage your relationship with clients. How can you protect yourself?

Running a social media check highlights problems before you hire. A social media check helps you make informed hiring decisions. It also stops dangerous applicants before they slip through your hiring process.

Social media has the potential to grow your business. Don’t squander that potential by living in fear. Social media can help your business build new connections and a strong client base. A social media check ensures that your business will reap the benefits of social media.