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The Arguments For and Against Social Media Searches in Background Screening

May 19, 2022 | By Jeramy Gordon

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The purpose of a background check is to ensure that you have made the right hiring decision and that the candidate you’ve chosen does not bring undue risk to your business. With that said, a more recent addition to the background check is social media screening, in which background screening providers perform a search of an applicant’s social media profiles.

The fact is that most employers (91%) are already evaluating candidates’ social media profiles as part of the screening process, but social media background screening professionalizes this evaluation.

Here’s why you should stop screening candidates’ social media yourself.

It is important to understand that some applicants will feel that social media searches can become an invasion of privacy and crosses a boundary between a candidate’s personal and professional life.

Pros of social media searches during screening

Some of the benefits of adding social media searches to the background checking process include:

  • Uncovering illegal or violent behavior: Hiring people who participate in illegal or violent behavior could pose a risk. But what happens when that candidate doesn’t have a criminal record. A social media screen may help shine a light on the prospect’s activities inside and outside the workplace.
  • See how candidates behave outside of the office – A candidate’s social media activity will give you an idea of how they conduct themselves outside of the work environment, as well as what their values are. Things like their hobbies, activities, how they interact with others, etc. can inform you of the type of person they are and whether their personality would be a great match for the role you wish to hire them for.
  • Assess skills for specific job positions – One particular benefit of a social media search is that you can assess certain skills. For example, if your company is hiring for a role that involves written communication, you may want to look at how the candidate communicates on their social media profiles.

Perhaps one of the most critical benefits of social media screening is the ability to identify red flags that suggest a candidate would be a poor fit for the company or will put the brand at risk if hired. Examples of red flags include:

  • Negative commentary on previous or current employers or co-workers
  • Sharing confidential information from previous employers
  • Bigotry (racist, sexist, or other discriminatory behavior)
  • Threats, abuse, or acts of violence
  • Illegal activity
  • Sexually explicit or other inappropriate content.

Cons of social media searches during screening

Of course, there are also a few cons worth mentioning:

  • Inconsistency with social media usage – Not everyone uses social media, and those who do use social media don’t all use it the same way. This inconsistency can make it difficult for companies to choose between two or more applicants.
  • Unconscious bias – There is a risk of unconscious bias that comes with social media screening. If a hiring manager sees content on a candidate’s profile that goes against their own beliefs—be it religious, political, or otherwise—there’s a chance they may want to reject that applicant for those reasons, even if they don’t intend to.
  • Privacy concerns – Applicants may feel that their personal lives are separate from their professional ones, and do not want to be turned down for a position because of the things they post outside of a professional context.

Importantly, companies can take steps to allay privacy concerns around social media searches:

  • Companies should have a social media screening policy[TV1]  in place and use screening software that is compliant with ADA and EEOC reporting guidelines.
  • Screening platforms like the one we offer at Accurate allow you to generate social media profile reports that redact protected class information and ensure candidate privacy.

While there are a few known cons to screening your candidates’ social media, doing so will ensure that you reduce hiring, reputational, and brand risk, and ultimately choose better candidates. And a trusted provider, like Accurate, can help you reap the benefits of screening social media while minimizing the downsides.

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