Social Media Background Checks – What You Need To Know

When it comes to hiring new employees, a hiring manager’s mantra should always be, “Better safe than sorry.” After all, bringing a new employee on board requires a leap of faith and a degree of trust you might not even bestow on a friend or neighbor, yet most new hires are little more than complete strangers. Performing due diligence before making hiring decisions is the best way businesses can protect themselves and their assets, and more and more frequently, that means turning to potential employees’ social media accounts for information.

It’s true social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can tell you a lot about a person’s character and even their judgment; after all, these accounts are where most users tend to “let their hair down” and become much more verbally forthcoming than they might be during a typical interview process. In fact, the use of social media account information has become so prevalent, many employment agencies and counselors advise job seekers to change their account privacy settings to prevent employers from seeing all the information on their social media pages.

Social media background check

But does that simple act of subterfuge actually work? Not always: Some businesses have been so upfront about their intention to use social accounts when screening applicants, they’ve even requested usernames and passwords during the application process, leaving applicants scrambling to delete comments, photos and other information that could harm their chances of employment.

If that sounds like the approach you’re company has been following, take note: All that “easy access” is changing as state legislatures have been enacting laws that would make requiring such information to obtain a job illegal. To date, well over half of all states have passed legislation to forbid employers from requesting social media account information in order for employees to get or keep a job.

Legal implications

But what about accounts that don’t bother to take advantage of privacy settings and leave their accounts open for anyone to view? Aren’t they fair game for employers on the hunt for the ideal applicant? At first glance, it might seem that way; after all, information is there for anyone to read. But unless you tread carefully, using social media account information for even a portion of your hiring decision could wind up backfiring; even if you don’t actually use social account information when deciding not to hire someone, if it might appear as though you did, you could still find yourself running afoul of the law.

For instance, if a person’s social account indicates they belong to a specific religion or have a disability and they are not hired, they may allege the decision was made based on the information the employer accessed on social media, prompting an EEO lawsuit. Proving your business’ true motivations isn’t just time-consuming, it can also be cost-intensive.

The take-home message

While social media may seem like a gold mine of information for employers, there are far less risky approaches to the employment background check process that can still yield plenty of information that’s far more telling when it comes to determining whether or not a candidate may be suitable. After all, social accounts are there for socializing, and the behavior reflected on those sites is almost certainly not what you’ll see in the workplace.

Rigorous screening using criminal and civil records, credit information, education verification and other carefully conducted background checks can help uncover behaviors that are far more likely to have a bearing on an employee’s performance or activity while on the job. Because these processes have been well established, the guidelines and laws that regulate their use are also more clearly defined. Still, since hiring laws change with fair frequency, staying on the “right” side of the law can become problematic for many hiring managers who may be unaware of recent updates and how they apply in an actual hiring media background check

Using a company like VerifyProtect to conduct employment background checks is the best way to be certain your hiring process is fair and legal, providing your company with significant peace of mind and contributing to your overall risk management initiatives. Beyond conducting the search process itself, VerifyProtect can also provide you with complete and detailed results reports that can substantiate hiring decisions and protect your company if an issue arises, providing an added layer of protection.

Hiring process complete? There’s still one more step to take regarding your employee’s social media accounts: Make sure your new hire understands your company’s social media policy so they don’t run afoul of it when posting online.

Kristina Taylor
In 1989, Kristina began her career as a customer service representative at the newly formed American Tenant Screen, Inc. Ten years later, she pioneered tenant background screening on the Internet. As a long-standing member of the National Multifamily Resident Information Council (formerly the National Association of Screening Agencies) Kristina gains insight into the trends of the tenant screening industry to better understand the current and future needs of their clients.

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