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Using Social Media in Employment Background Checks

social media background checks

Using social media to verify candidates for employment is an important and legal way to ensure good hiring.

The hiring process can be a lengthy one, involving a number of steps like advertising for the open position, reviewing candidates’ resumes and cover letters, conducting interviews, checking references and running employment background checks. But in today’s digital world, one piece that’s often missing from the equation is a social media check as part of the overall employee background check process.

Per Statista, 79% of the U.S. population (approximately 247 million people) is on social media, voluntarily offering up a goldmine of information. Conducting a social media check during the hiring process is an excellent way to uncover how candidates portray themselves outside of the work setting. This can either minimize the chances of your company making a poor hiring decision or further solidify that these candidates are indeed the right person for the job.

The Benefits of Social Media Investigations for HR

  • Insight into who the candidates really are and if/how they align with the company’s morals and values.
  • Greater insight into applicants’ abilities and what they might bring to the job.
  • The unveiling of inappropriate behavior or content. It’s surprising how forthright some people are in a Facebook post or tweet.
  • Ability to see what other people say about the applicants.

Reasons Employers Have Chosen Not to Hire a Candidate Based on Results of a Social Media Check

According to a national survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder by The Harris Poll include, the main reasons that employers who performed employment background checks using social media content from social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and others who decided not to hire a candidate were:

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (40%)
  • Candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs (36%)
  • Candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. (31%)
  • Candidate was linked to criminal behavior (30%)
  • Candidate lied about qualifications (27%)
  • Candidate had poor communication skills (27%)
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee (25%)
  • Candidate’s screen name was unprofessional (22%)
  • Candidate shared confidential information from previous employers (20%)
  • Candidate lied about an absence (16%)
  • Candidate posted too frequently (12%)

Real-life examples of the benefits of checking social media when hiring.

We’ve seen a number of examples a simple social media check saved a company from making a hiring mistake. Take these stories from recruitment site The Muse for instance:

The woman who lied about her mom dying.

A candidate canceled her interview last minute, saying her mom had died. When someone from the company looked at her Facebook page, they saw a photo of the candidate out to dinner with her mom the day after she’d supposedly died.

The man who wore a swastika in his profile picture.

The candidate had the right skills and background and was going to get the job – that is until the hiring company found an unsettling photo on social media. His profile picture featured him in a biker jacket with a swastika on it.

The daycare job candidate who posted memes from the r/ChildrenFallingOver subreddit site.

The candidate’s Twitter account featured reposts from the r/ChildrenFallingOver subreddit. While the posts were a few years old, and likely not meant as anything malicious, the company did not want anyone at the company who had made fun of children.

There’s also the example of how not completing a thorough social media check can cause significant backlash for a company: Shane Gillis was hired to join the cast of SNL, but was fired just four days later after a clip of him using racial and homophobic slurs resurfaced. A quick and simple social media check, especially for such a high-profile position, could have avoided a lot of bad publicity for the show and the network.

While social media-based employment background checks can be extremely valuable for HR directors, they can also be extremely time-consuming. Searching through years of content across a number of social media platforms can take hours. And that’s just for one candidate. Save yourself time and resources by outsourcing your social media checks to a vendor with Social Media Investigation Services that uses the best tools and that has proven expertise.

Check out our Top 5 Reasons HR Directors Should Add Social Media Checks to their vetting process and for a limited time receive a coupon for one FREE Social Media Check!