Are You Performing “Social Media Background Checks” on Candidates?


As popularity of social networking sites continues to grow, businesses are increasingly checking these online locations to find talent and learn about potential employees.

Checking social media is particularly valuable when “soft skills” are a crucial part of the hiring criteria. Good judgment, discretion, and dedication to the company’s goals are fundamental to an employee’s success, and a person’s postings on social media can reveal poor judgment, discretion, and other noteworthy flaws that render the candidate unsuitable for the position.

A few words of warning

Organizations should think about the risks of sourcing information on social media that reveals a candidate belongs to protected categories, such as political affiliation, religion, pregnancy, disability or severe health condition, or details on their family’s medical history and genetic background. Organizations must also think about the risks of seeing information on a candidate’s protected activity, like workers’ compensation claims or protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

There are multiple factors to think about if a worker’s postings on the nternet constitute protected concerted activity under the NLRA, including complaints about wages and working conditions, or potential labor actions.

Because of these legal pitfalls, there are several protective steps a business should take if it is going to investigate candidates’ social media profiles.

Only access public content

A business should only include an overview of social media that is within the public site on the internet. Firms can not mandate candidates to produce their Facebook username or password, or mandate them to “friend” the company, or mandate them to log onto their Facebook location and permit the company to comb through their profile during an interview.

Furthermore, if the candidate was referred by a current employee who is a “friend” of the candidate on Facebook, hiring managers should not make a “backdoor” effort review a candidate’s non-public content through employee’s profile.

Simply put, the privacy settings of a candidate need to be respected.

Respect the candidate and their privacy

If your business is going to conduct social background checks, you need to inform candidates about the practice. You can then work with the candidate to accurately identify their social profile, eliminating the possibility of looking at the wrong profile.

While it is acceptable to ask candidates for the addresses of their social profiles, you shouldn’t be asking for access via their username and password.

Have a plan in place

Businesses should give extensive training for recruiters, hiring managers, and others taking part in the hiring of employees on the company’s social media background check practices. Training should focus on delivering a standardized method for conducting the background check that should be applied to all applicants, not just a select few. The training program should also familiarize employees with the relevant terms of service for each social media site.

Companies should also separate the social media research from those making the hiring decisions. This shields decision makers from content related to protected categories and activities.

If a candidate is disqualified because of something on their social media, the company needs to document the genuine, nondiscriminatory reason for the decision.

At TempsPlus of Paducah, we work with our clients to develop robust hiring criteria, which can include a social media background check. If you’d like to outsource this or any part of your talent acquisition process, please contact us through our website.

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