Social media screening – beneficial or breach?

When looking for jobs, one thing candidates may not consider is that their social media activity may be part of the equation. And why should they? Social media is something you engage in during your free time, employers don’t see that, right? 

Wrong. Many people forget that, depending on your privacy settings, information posted online is publicly available, accessible to friends, family – and prospective employers. Employers very well may look up a candidate’s social media profile. And if they discover posts about frequent wild nights out, sensitive photographs, or engagement in lewd or illegal activities online, they’re likely to pass over that candidate.  

“An increasing number of organisations now see social media as a legitimate way to answer questions about a person’s suitability for a job, find the best cultural fit, and prevent bad hires.” 

– Angela Preston, SVP and Counsel, Corporate Ethics and Compliance at Sterling

The idea of getting a holistic view of a candidate is one that is attractive to many employers. According to a 2018 survey conducted in the US by CareerBuilder, 70% of employers check out a candidate’s social media profile during the hiring process. 

Of course, this varies by industry, with CareerBuilder revealing the top industries using social media screening to be IT and Manufacturing. The most common socials scanned are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Organisations can avoid negligent hiring lawsuits by circumventing the hire of a candidate whose social media displays “objective indicators of toxic, illegal or inappropriate behaviour” (Sterling). Where a resume details skills, a candidate’s social media displays their everyday behaviour, allowing employers to determine if they are a cultural fit for their company.

However, Monash University’s Karen Sutherland raises an important question: “Is it ethical to judge a candidate based on what they do in their own time away from work?” While this information may be publicly available, the candidate may not wish to disclose certain things to their employer, particularly personal information like political views, religious affiliations, etc. It is essential to remain transparent in the practice and gain consent from applicants. At consent some first, and if consent is not granted, the check does not proceed.

However, these checks can return valuable insights into potential hires, and identify red flags from the outset. This can save employers and organisations from reputation risks or HR nightmares down the line.

To safeguard against any bias and discrimination, automation is the best approach. It should not be a single person simply scrolling through a candidate’s profile – our process uses a program that crawls the page and flags any inappropriate content for review by a screener. This objective process ensures no time is wasted sifting through job-irrelevant information and that any illegal or inappropriate content is identified.

Social Media screening is a useful tool for hiring managers to see how a candidate represents themselves in a non-professional setting. This provides insight to their manner and values, and can help employers make an informed decision about how they may fit into and contribute to the office. Protect your organisation from reputation risk today with a Social Media Check. 

Written by Mary Snowden.

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