Best practices for conducting social media background checks


According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 60% of employers use social networking sites to research employees. That number is up from just 11% in 2006. More people are using social media these days than ever before, and it is becoming the norm for employers to use social media to screen their prospective job candidates.

As a hiring manager, you are likely well trained on discrimination laws pertaining to applicants. However, you may be wondering how these laws extend to the digital world. Whether you're entirely new to social media background screening, or just looking for ways to incorporate social media into your company's hiring process, this post is for you. Here are a few best practices for conducting social media background checks.

1. Outsource social media screening

During the hiring process, it is important to avoid looking at any protected class information that pertains to the candidate. That includes, but is not limited to age, sex, disabilities, race, and religion. It is very easy to stumble across this information by taking a quick look at an applicant's Facebook profile or other social media account. If you hire a third-party screener that is FCRA compliant to do the investigation on your behalf, they will remove that information to protect the candidate's privacy. This minimizes the risk of discrimination lawsuits and protects your company from breach of privacy claims.

2. Get consent

Social media hiring reports are considered consumer reports. Therefore, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that employers get written consent from all applicants or employees before such a search is conducted. The candidate also must be informed that such a report may be used for decisions related to their employment.

3. Follow FCRA adverse action standards

Before an employer can take any adverse employment action (such as terminating an employee or rejecting a job application), the candidate must be provided with:
a) A pre-adverse notice
b) A copy of the consumer report being used
c) An explanation of the candidate's rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

It is a best practice to avoid communicating with the applicant until after these steps have been taken. After completing the pre-adverse action steps, the candidate is given a five day grace period during which they can decide whether they want to challenge the information gathered in their consumer report. The employer can send the final adverse letter after five days have passed.

4. Create a company-wide social media policy

Many organizations have created social media policies for their employees to adhere to. These policies act as a guide for employees to ensure that the content on their social media accounts is a reflection of their company's values. For example, some businesses want all employees to use a pre-written statement when describing their job online. Others ask employees to add Twitter disclaimers indicating that the views expressed do not represent their employer. It is helpful to have a social media policy in place so that company expectations are clear.

5. Be consistent

When it comes to HR, nothing is more important than keeping things fair and standard for all employees. Screen all applicants or employees using same criteria across the board. Have a uniform screening procedure set in place so that all applicants are treated equally and go through a standardized hiring process.

Looking for more information? Contact us today to receive a sample of our social media hiring reports.


Contributing author: Caitlin Rogers