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What You Need to Know about Social Media Background Checks

Date Published: November 02, 2021 | Last Updated:September 15, 2023 | By Accurate Background
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According to Statista, the average person spends about 145 minutes on social media every day. Social media has become an integral part of our lives over the last few years. We use it to share personal parts of our lives, discuss current issues, for entertainment, and more. The popularity of social media is why more and more employers over the past few years have taken it upon themselves to conduct social media background checks – whether it’s to get a better sense of the job candidate’s personality or screen for red flags that could pose a risk to the work environment.

What is a Social Media Background Check?

A social media background check screens a person’s social media content to check for any problematic or negative behavior. Employers choose to conduct social media background checks to search for any indicators of dangerous or risky behavior.

Are Social Media Background Checks Legal?

The short answer to whether social media background checks are legal is yes. It must be done correctly, however. A social media background check must comply with all laws and local jurisdictions in each state that regulate employer access to a candidate’s social media profiles. This is why employers should use compliant social media screening software that meets ADA and EEOC reporting guidelines such as Accurate’s social media screening service.

Why Should Employers Conduct Social Media Background Checks?

A candidate’s social media can clue you in on behaviors or characteristics that are important to know before hiring. If a candidate’s posts are discriminatory or intolerant of certain religions or politics or are violent and illegal, your company can run the risk of creating a toxic workplace. Social media background checks are also important for certain industries or jobs. For example, a healthcare provider may not feel comfortable hiring healthcare workers whose social media posts comprise of anti-vax content. A company like Uber or Lyft may have a tough time hiring a worker whose social media shows illegal drug use or dangerous driving behaviors. These types of behaviors are also easier to pick up on through a social media background check than other forms of background checks, such as driving history checks or criminal background checks.

Here are the types of problematic social media content that social media background checks screen for:

  • Discriminatory content
  • Illegal substances or drugs
  • Sexist content
  • Content that contains or promotes violence
  • Racist content
  • Content that supports or indicates criminal behavior
  • Offensive content

In the last few years, social media has been looked at with more scrutiny than ever. Even if it is from several years ago, an offensive tweet or picture can come back to bite an employee back later. A simple social media background check can help your company avoid any potential risks due to an employee’s past social media history.

Why Shouldn’t I Conduct the Social Media Background Check Myself?

Although you are allowed to review any public information on a candidate’s social media profile, it’s best to leave the social media screening to a third-party service. As previously mentioned, there are many regulations around how employers can use social media for hiring. When done manually, you can put yourself at risk for lawsuits and biased hiring decisions.

Social media accounts oftentimes can reveal personal details such as race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and more. These are all factors that can compromise hiring decisions. For example, an employer could make the decision not to pursue a candidate who seems pregnant in an online photo. Or the hirer could deny someone a job because they do not like the religious beliefs expressed on the candidate’s profile. The potential for discrimination is great.

Furthermore, by law, an applicant must have a process available to them to address information used to make a hiring decision. In most cases, if an employer is using social media to make a hiring decision, they are not sharing that feedback with the candidate, which denies the applicant the ability to dispute adverse information.

A manual social media screening process is also risky because there isn’t a standardized system to it. An employer may have certain biases when they look at one candidate’s social media content but may not if they examine another candidate’s social media profiles with similar content. Or an employer may unconsciously make a hiring decision based on social media content that isn’t relevant at all to the role. Even if they decide not to be biased at all, there’s no way to guarantee. This defeats the purpose of conducting an unbiased social media background check. That is why a third-party service with written guidelines and the same procedure for every candidate is the best way to conduct a social media background check.

Conduct Your Social Media Background Checks through Accurate

Since social media background checks are a tricky matter, it’s best to use a reputable provider such as Accurate for several reasons:

  • Compliance – At Accurate, we take compliance violations seriously. We are up to date with the latest federal and state laws throughout the country and are committed to remaining compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Every social media search conducted through Accurate meets both ADA and EEOC guidelines.
  • Automated Searches – Our automated social media background checks can review large batches of social media content quickly and efficiently across all publicly available platforms. Our automated search tool only reveals negative or problematic postings, so we can maintain any candidate’s privacy and right to free speech. Employers can easily integrate Accurate into the employer’s applicant tracking system or choose to use our API for simple integration into the employer’s system.
  • Accuracy – Manual social media checks are prone to error and information oversight. Accurate’s system with human oversight helps ensure accuracy so employers can make their hiring decisions confidently.
  • Digestible Reports – We tailor every social media search based on the employer’s criteria and then deliver the results in a simple, easy-to-read report.

With a trusted solution such as Accurate,  social media background screening can help your business gather pertinent information and data to make the most informed hiring decision.

To learn more about social media background checks, visit our social media screening page.

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