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How to Create a Fair and Effective Social Media Screening Process

Recruiters often turn to social media to get insights into applicants they may not have through other background checks. However, doing so can be risky if not done correctly.

For example, many states have laws that prevent employers from requesting passwords to private social media accounts. Additionally, there are concerns about discrimination and privacy laws.

Establish a Policy

Many employers have policies directing employees to ensure their online content is professional and aligned with the company’s values. It is essential to create similar policies for social media screening to implement an effective and consistent process. This will help mitigate the risk of claims of unconscious bias by hiring managers who may be tasked with conducting these checks.

While some may think that social media is just a public forum where people can post whatever they want, it can reveal much about an individual. Pictures of candidates in compromising situations, posts about alcohol abuse or violence, and even private conversations can be uncovered. This type of information can be a red flag for poor behavior in the workplace and may lead to negligent hiring lawsuits if not discovered by an employer.

Social media background check is time-consuming and complicated because privacy laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), must be followed. It is also a best practice to notify candidates and obtain consent to review their social media before starting the search. In addition, it is recommended that only public information be reviewed, and the findings should be limited to job-related items. Using a third-party screening partner that is FCRA compliant and uses technology and specialized products to perform these searches can be very helpful in streamlining the process and mitigating risks.

Educate Employees

Incorporate a social media screening policy into your HR guidelines that provides clear rules and standards to guarantee that the process is undertaken reasonably, consistently, and lawfully. HR teams should also be given training to understand the legal and ethical issues involved and best practices for using social media to assess candidates. Otherwise, the process could be susceptible to unconscious bias from individuals tasked with carrying out the checks, leading to inappropriate decisions and putting the company at risk.

Consider partnering with an outside company that specializes in social media background checks and can provide expert advice and support. This may be particularly helpful if you have many candidates and want to ensure you are not making any mistakes or breaking the law. 

Remember that information on social media is often user-generated and curated to portray a particular image. It cannot be easy to verify information, and it is easy for a candidate to make false statements or mislead you with their profile. A third-party provider can help mitigate this by providing objective insights, mitigating discrimination claims, and freeing your team to focus on other tasks.

Monitor Social Media

Social media monitoring is the process of paying attention to what people are saying about you and your brand on social media. This is important because it can help you avoid a shitstorm, improve customer service, find out what your competitors are doing, and keep up with trends. Many different tools for social media monitoring are available on the market, but choosing a tool that meets your needs is essential.

It is also essential to understand that there are limits to social media monitoring. For example, you should only monitor a candidate’s social media after hiring them. This can be considered a violation of their privacy and could lead to a lawsuit. Instead, use social media monitoring to supplement other pre-employment screening activities.

The accuracy of information on social media could be better. Misinformation spreads quickly, and the viral nature of content amplifies errors before they can be corrected. Filter bubbles and echo chambers also limit exposure to diverse perspectives and critical evaluation. Inaccuracy is further compounded by individuals and groups manipulating social media for political gain or malicious intent.

Suppose you’re considering using social media screening in your hiring process.

Invest in Technology

You’ve probably done it yourself: Googled a new acquaintance or colleague to get more context on them. For recruiters, social media and online searching offer a unique insight into a candidate’s personality, ways of thinking, capabilities, and more beyond what they can show in an interview or on their CV.

But implementing a DIY social screening process can be time-consuming and fraught with legal pitfalls, from privacy laws to discrimination suits. It can also be difficult for HR and recruiting teams to assess and act on the information they find, exposing them to bias that may influence their decision-making.

An alternative is outsourcing your social media screening to a professional background screening company that can help you create a streamlined, consistent, and fair process compliant with all regulations. The most effective way to do this is by using a solution that uses technology and three layers of human analysts to ensure accuracy. This will uncover red flags such as narcotics, violence, racism, or other forms of discrimination that may be difficult to spot without the full context of an applicant’s online persona.

It will also reveal green flags, such as volunteer work and charity activities, that may indicate their suitability for a role. It will also give you the confidence to know you’re getting a comprehensive picture of your candidates rather than just a few snapshots on their accounts.


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