Ask an Analyst: Does Social Media Screening Only Cover Social Media Platforms?

We continue our Ask an Analyst series by answering another of one of the most common questions we get here in our corner of the industry: what exactly does social media screening cover?

It’s a fair question! You apply for a job, fill out all the necessary paperwork, and amidst all the HR forms you discover one asking for your consent to run a social media background check. You wonder, just before agree: is a social media screening just for social media platforms? If so, which ones? Do these screening providers contract directly with those major platforms, or does this cover everything on the internet?

We’re happy to tell you.

What We Actually Cover

Despite the implications of the title, proper social media screening builds a profile of a candidate’s web presence far beyond the standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our software program checks all publicly available information online as far back as seven years (per FCRA regulation) for any given individual. A client can expect a report with any flagged content found anywhere from an individual’s Facebook to their personal website, even their public online shopping lists. So no, we do not have contracts with Facebook or LinkedIn to mine personal information--that would be sketchy. Everything that we process through our technology comes specifically from online accounts owned by the candidate with content settings that are public.

So Why Do You Call It “Social Media Screening”?

Good question. Think of it this way: social media makes up the vast majority of an individual’s online presence-- over 77% of Americans alone have at least one social media account. Because social media is the most common way for people to share themselves online, it’s also the most efficient way of screening a prospective employee. Remember that SMS is interested in screening for disreputable behavior, and the final hiring decision is placed squarely in the hands of the employer. Unless an individual owns a business, has made it into a local paper, or runs an independent blog outside of commonly used platforms, they can expect that most of the behavior we’re interested in is going to come from social media. Social media is, after all, pretty much the prime place where someone with disparaging behavior is going to post about it. However, because we love a thorough report, we do check all publicly available information online for potential examples of harassment, violence, illegal activity, etc.

What Do These Reports Look Like?

A typical report looks pretty simple.  If our analysts process any flagged material, they will include screenshots of the materials in the report.  Here’s an example of a flagged Facebook post.

Screen Shot 2019-01-22 at 9.42.42 PM

Additionally, here’s an example of flagged material found outside of the common social media outlets:

Screen Shot 2019-01-22 at 9.43.26 PM

Keep in mind that Social Intel takes the confidentiality of each individual’s identity and protected class status very seriously, so naturally all identifying information (gender, race, nationality, etc.) is meticulously scrubbed from the report. We care about our clients just as much as we care about the individuals we screen, so you can rest assured that all is handled professionally and with complete compliance with FCRA regulations.



We hope this was helpful! We love demystifying the intricacies and misconceptions of social media screening and hope that (now that you’ve made it to the bottom of this post) SMS looks a bit less scary--because it’s not! We’d just rather be transparent about what we’re here for.

For more reading on common misconceptions, click here. For more answers to your burning questions, click here and here