Skip to content

Everything You Need to Know About Social Media Background Checks

Everything to know about social media checks for an employer

Conducting background checks is a wise decision before making an official hiring decision. With emerging digital platforms, many employers now opt to incorporate a social media check into their background screening process. 

Exploring the social media activities of prospective employees can yield valuable information but may also lead to legal challenges and biased hiring. Familiarizing yourself with the fundamentals of social media background checks before implementing them can help safeguard your business and optimize their effectiveness.

What are social media background checks?

Social media background checks reference prospective employees' online footprints to assess their suitability for a role. Some checks include surface-level reviews on popular social media platforms, while others involve comprehensive searches of blogs, comment sections, and other digital traces of a candidate's online activities. Further, discovering information on social media can validate information provided in a candidate's application and provide valuable insights into their behavior and conduct. At Authentica, our social media screening entails a seven-year report on racist, sexist or discriminatory behavior; sexually explicit material; threats or acts of violence; and potentially illegal activity.

Advantages of social media background checks

Conducting social media searches on job applicants offers advantages that enable hiring teams to make well-informed decisions.

Ensuring culture match: Most individuals express their goals, values, and personality through social media. A social media check can determine if there is a clear contradiction to a company-held value.

Uncovering red flags: Examining applicants' social media can cue you into erratic or problematic behaviors that may pose liability risks or create conflicts within your existing staff. More specific examples of red flags may include:

  • Derogatory, sexist, or racist comments
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Potentially illegal activity
  • Violent tendencies or actions 

Preserving positive company image: Maintaining high employee standards, including online presence, is crucial for companies with a prominent public image. Performing social media background checks significantly reduces the risk of hiring candidates that would negatively represent your company.

Privacy and ethical concerns 

Social media background checks can raise privacy and ethical concerns if done improperly. Because they involve making judgments about a candidate's personal life, social media checks can lead to the dissemination of misinformation or exert an inappropriate influence on the hiring process. 

Mistaken identities and false information: The reliability of online information is not guaranteed. It is common for multiple individuals to share the same name, and individuals can assume alternate identities online. Thus, businesses performing social media checks risk falsely attributing posts from others to their candidates.

Discriminatory hiring practices: Social media checks must adhere to federal regulations. Employers are required to disclose any information used to make adverse hiring decisions, and various states have their own hiring laws that pertain to cyber-vetting. 

When it comes to disclosure, social media background checks cannot be kept secret from candidates. This exposes your organization to two potential risks:

  • Candidates can allege that your final hiring decision was influenced by a protected characteristic.
  • Candidates can file an FCRA claim disputing the accuracy of the data.

Protected characteristics include, but are not limited to, age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or citizenship status. 

Furthermore, candidates will be able to know what specific online information about them was accessed. In some instances, this can escalate into accusations of discrimination and lead to a lawsuit.

Best practices

To ensure legal compliance and maximize the effectiveness of your social media background checks, employ these strategies:

  • Know what information is being screened for. Hiring managers should understand the risks of biases and collecting personal information, as well as receive guidance on important laws like the New York State Human Rights Law.
  • Create a clear policy. Establish guidelines and a universal policy for social media monitoring and communicate that to applicants during the hiring process.
  • Be conscious of your business's online presence. Since candidates will also be browsing your company's social media platforms, focusing on consistently updating your profile is crucial. This ensures that your online presence accurately reflects your brand’s core values.
  • Always exercise caution. Information or assumptions may be unreliable without proper references. 

Hire more reliably with Authentica 

When you partner with Authentica, our state-of-the-art screening technology will provide verified candidate information while keeping your business compliant. Contact us today to learn more about our services and commitment to ensuring high-quality employment.