Here’s why social media should be a part of your background verification strategy

Here's why Social media should be a part of your background verification strategy

The world is changing, and so are our ways of engaging, sharing, and evaluating it. Social media has infiltrated practically every aspect of our life, containing a goldmine of data reflecting an individual’s habits, personality traits, and records. This has led the human resources teams to extract details about the potential hires easily, swiftly, and affordably. 

As per a report by Statista, the year 2020 saw over 3.6 billion social media users worldwide. This number is projected to increase to over 4.41 billion in 2025. An average social media user interacts with 6.6 different social media platforms per day, spending approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes online daily. People increasingly live their lives online, and this has also significantly impacted how we hire. Social media plays a vital role in the recruitment process, from finding candidates online to screening them for any red flags by analyzing their virtual presence.

The creation of digital profiles has provided hiring managers with additional information about potential employees, enabling them to make informed and reliable hiring decisions.

Here we will discuss how social media screening can be used to verify candidates’ identities and conduct background checks.

What is social media screening? Why is it necessary?

Social media screening is a background check method that uses artificial intelligence to search publicly available social media profiles. The system analyses social media posts, photos, comments, likes, and other online activities. It detects potentially offensive, hostile, coarse, or defamatory content to gain a judgment into the candidate’s personality and behavioral traits. It is a rich and more reliable source of information versus the traditional CV – which comes with a greater chance of being inaccurate or exaggerated.

Human resources involved in people management, from talent acquisition to diversity and inclusion managers, are tasked with finding and nurturing the right culture fit and trustworthy contributors to safe, positive, and productive workplaces. It includes eliminating those with an active, public past of discrimination or offensive behavior. By implementing sound screening practices, you actively engage in weeding out behavior inconsistent with your company’s policies and values. Furthermore, effectively maximizing social media data can help achieve core-value-based targets while maintaining and improving employee experience.

The social media scandals would likely give your public relations team nightmares, but what happens when the same behavior and attitude affect the workplace, off the web? At all stages of the employee lifecycle, intolerance, sexism, and violence are top concerns. Thus employers are understandably apprehensive about what their employees share on social, as behaviorally, digital networks easily spill into the workplace. The hostile workplace behaviors translate into unproductive teams and revenue losses. 

Best practices your company should follow while indulging in social media screening – 

  • Learn about the law – Depending on the location, screening candidates via social media may land you in hot water. It may be illegal to look up gender, age, race, religion, and sexual orientation, among other details. Before screening applicants, make sure you understand and follow the hiring laws. The organization could be charged and convicted of discriminatory practices and hiring bias if a candidate suspects it.
  • Maintain consistency – If you have several applicants to screen, make sure you follow the same procedures for each one. For example, do not evaluate one candidate’s LinkedIn profile and another’s Facebook profile.
  • Keep all evidence – Take a screenshot and save it if you have any hesitations about the candidate’s appropriateness for the role. Social media content gets deleted as quickly as it gets created. Holding proof could also save your company from any legal battles in the future.
  • Evade screen without permission – Before your screening process begins, notify your potential candidates of your screening process. You can create an official policy that outlines what you will be looking for, who will see the results and any privacy concerns.
  • Setting objective – A clear goal in mind while social screening will allow you to be more efficient and productive instead of aimlessly scrolling through a candidate’s social media feed. Make sure you have a detailed picture of what you wish or do not wish to discover on their profile. Do their values align with your company’s values? Do they possess traits, or are there pieces of evidence showing they would be detrimental to your work culture or brand image?
  • Avoid favoritism based on an applicant’s personal-life information and stick to the candidate’s professional life in data mining. There should be a clear difference between what people do during work hours and outside of it. Try to bypass making any subjective or biased decisions while hiring.
  • Outsource the process to background screening experts such as cFIRST for more accurate, compliant, competent, and swift social media screening results. 

Some determining factors that prompt businesses to opt for the outsourcing route are –

·       Legal ramifications – Companies that conduct ad-hoc reviews of candidates’ social media profiles may be violating the FTC’s Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA). Moreover, if the hiring manager has used legally protected information obtained from social media before having made an employment decision for a given candidate, the company may violate EEOC guidelines and be found accountable.

·       Inconsistent, tedious, and time-consuming procedure – After a few scrolls, most recruiters tend to lose focus. They could miss out on earlier posts of a candidate that contain disqualifying remarks. By outsourcing this process, the employer receives a more comprehensive investigation that is constant and standard across all recruiting branches within the organization. Hence it improves the quality and time involved in the social media review of the candidates.

·       Unconscious bias – Ad-hoc reviews of candidates’ social media for a globally dispersed organization can get prejudiced thereby weakening these measures as firms shift to enforce Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs across their branches. Outsourcing this to a third-party provider allows the organization to rule out the option of discrimination in hiring decisions.

While we are clear that social media screening should not get ignored while making an employment decision, only depending on social media to determine if the candidate is the right fit for your company can be disadvantageous. But why?

  • One cannot learn everything about someone through their social media profile. Social media gives us a glimpse of an individual but does not provide background for a candidate’s life or experience. Even when there is massive data available, profiles may not always be a true reflection of who the candidate is.
  • Do not review profiles before an interview. You will undoubtedly develop biases that will jeopardize the impartiality of the hiring process. It is preferable to allow time until the interview process has occurred.
  • While there may be many enthusiastic social media users nowadays, some do not update their profiles regularly, and others may avoid social media platforms entirely. Finally, everybody engages at a different scale. It implies that the information one has from social media is erratic and inconsistent. It does not provide a balanced perspective on candidates. The social media profiles may not always provide the information you seek. And it gets tricky to incorporate fragmented data to run a fair screening process.
  • Also, the data obtained from this social policing could be outdated and may not reflect the candidate’s current attitude, habits, or personality. Then, will it be fair to evaluate if a candidate should be employed based on just a few posts or tweets?

The ideal approach is to run social media screening in a combination with other background checks for a more wholesome and reliable verification process. In addition, one must always follow up with references where appropriate.

Background check specialists like cFIRST offer comprehensive screening packages and services ranging from educational and criminal checks to drug testing, reference and address verification, and others.

To summarize, social media screening across different platforms and channels helps – 

  • Safeguard the current organizational employees’ safety and well-being
  • Protect the brand’s image and reputation
  • Establish guidelines for a fair and objective hiring process
  • Encourage uniform reporting criteria
  • Save the cost and time involved with screening and employing candidates with red flags

As an enterprise, ensure that you are utilizing the social media screening along with the other crucial background checks. cFIRST lets you make informed hiring decisions facilitated by our enterprise-grade background screening solutions ranging from education, employment, drug and alcohol, credit checks, and fleet compliance. We have a robust partner network base spread across 200+ countries that have allowed several multi-national organizations to conduct hiring across continents without having to switch service providers or manage multiple platforms. Get in touch with our subject matter experts and explore our range of service offerings.