social media screening

How to Reduce Hiring Risks Using Social Media Screening

Social media screening is an increasingly popular option for companies hoping to avoid bad hires. Without question, social networking platforms do provide valuable insight on prospective employees. While traditional screening methods only deliver cold hard facts and figures, social media offers a more personal view. With social media screening, you don’t just see what your candidates have done. You get a peek at who they are, how they think, and what they say when they’re not in a job interview.

But before you start casually scrolling through your top candidates’ Instagram profiles, you need to know the risks. It’s true that you can’t afford to skip social media background checks, but it’s also true that you can’t afford to do it incorrectly.

Here’s everything you need to know about hiring smarter:

How Social Media Screening Prevents Bad Hires

As all employers, hiring managers, and HR recruiters know, a potential hire is more than a resume or a list of past mistakes. Each person is a complex human being who lives according to a certain value system and personal rules of conduct.

Now, some aspects of an individual’s value system and life experiences should never come into consideration when you’re hiring. Religion, race, politics, sexual orientation, ability . . . these are irrelevant when it comes to choosing the right candidate.

But what if a prospective employee has a history of racist attitudes and actions? What if they’ve been known to publicly denigrate their employer or coworkers? What if they frequently use aggression, manipulation, or intimidation to get their way?

This is all information you would want to know before bringing an individual on staff. But you won’t gain any of these insights from traditional background checks.

This is where social media screening comes in.

With social media screening, you can move beyond bullet points on a record and discover who someone is as a human being. You learn how they collaborate, how they treat others, and how they handle conflict.

In other words, you find out if they’re a good fit for your company culture. Social media screening helps you protect your business by avoiding major mistakes that can destroy employee morale and lead to costly turnover.

The Risks of Social Media Screening

Unfortunately, social media screening is not as simple as checking out your prospective employee’s Facebook page. There are risks that come with this screening technique . . . especially if you don’t know how to do it correctly.

The Issue of FCRA and EEOC Compliance

When you check a candidate’s Twitter account, you might want nothing more than to make sure they’re respectful of others and don’t disparage their employer.

Nevertheless, you will learn quite a bit more than that. This includes several details that you cannot use to make hiring decisions, such as:
● Religious beliefs
● Political affiliations
● Sexual orientation
● Ethnicity
● Physical ability
● Medical history

Now, these details may not matter to you at all. Unfortunately, you can’t prove that they don’t matter. And the more of this information you have during the hiring process, the more vulnerable you are to accusations of discrimination.

Risk of Negligent Hiring

The greatest concern about learning too much from a candidate’s Facebook is that you’ll wind up on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s bad side. But there’s another risk associated with knowing too much:

Negligent hiring.

Negligent hiring is a legal claim made against an employer when an employee is injured due to the actions of a coworker who has a history of similar behavior.

This claim argues that the employer either knew or should have known this history, and thus created a dangerous environment for their team by hiring that individual anyway.

Now, suppose you conducted social media screening for a prospective hire. You choose to bring that individual onboard, and they bring harm to an employee. It is then discovered that there were indicators of dangerous behavior in that employee’s social media history.

The point may be made that you should have known about your employee’s reckless tendencies. You are now dealing with a negligent hiring claim.

Smart Social Media Screening Procedures

While social media screening does come with risks, so does hiring new employees without a clear glimpse at their character. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your business while screening prospective hires on social media.

The Safest Option: Hire a Third-Party Screening Service

The smartest possible choice when it comes to social media screening is to work with an outside company. A third-party screening service can find essential information for determining culture fit while withholding sensitive details you should know nothing about.

PeopleG2 offers comprehensive social media screening. Our team uses proven social media methodology screening, curating information from all available content. We look at social media posts, tweets, blog entries, photos, videos, and even comments.

You receive a discovery profile with all sensitive information redacted.

Be Consistent

As with all screening and hiring practices, be sure to treat all candidates in the same job classification the same way. When you screen one applicant’s social media, you must conduct the same screening for all individuals in the same stage of consideration.

Do Not Make It Mandatory

There is one exception to the rule that “if you do it for one person, you have to do it for everyone.”

You cannot do pre-employment social media screening for a candidate who has no online presence. While that seems almost impossible these days, it does happen. And it is an EEOC violation to exclude a candidate from consideration simply because they have no social media to screen.

Establish a Regular Screening Procedure

Decide what specific information you want to learn about job seekers. Determine a set routine for discovering and documenting those details. Make sure you and human resources follow the same social media procedure every time.

With guidelines in place, it will be easier for you to support claims of objectivity in the event of a discrimination claim.

Get Consent

Just as you do with traditional employment screening, let your applicant know you plan to conduct social media screening. Secure their consent before you proceed.

Keep a Record

Should you decide not to hire a prospective employee based on a social media discovery, keep a record of the post, comment, or media that led to your decision.

If you hire a company like PeopleG2, keep your social media discovery on file. If you conduct your own social media screening, print out the evidence of the deal-breaking content.

Give the Candidate a Chance to Respond

As we’ve all learned, some things are out of our control in the world of social media.

If you find something objectionable, consider sharing your concern with the candidate. This is especially important if the worrisome content is a comment about the applicant, made by someone else.

Also be aware that there could be an imposter account under the name of your prospective hire. It’s even possible that you’re looking at the wrong profile. (This is another reason to hand social media screening over to professional screeners.)

How Can We Help?

While there are several ways to make your screening process as fair as possible, nothing is as safe as going with a third party.

We’d love to help. Our social media screening service is consistent, objective, and defensible. When you work with us, your team and stakeholders have peace of mind, knowing you’re fully vetting new employees.

And you’re vetting those employees without risking discrimination claims, EEOC/OFCCP fines, FCRA compliance issues, or removal of government contracts.

Reach out if you’d like to learn more about our screening services. As always, we want to know how we can help.