Managing Screening Anxiety: Dispelling Big Brother Fears in the Talent Pool

As companies innovate and rework all aspects of the employee cycle for a digital age, the candidate experience has emerged as an underserved process in need of close attention. As the largest slice of the labor force is now occupied by tech-literate, innovation-obsessed Millennials, it’s becoming increasingly easier for HR professionals to innovate their hiring practices with less and less resistance. The modern talent pool is values-driven and may generally view preventative measures like social media screening as a positive thing. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t anxieties that come with a pre-hire screening.

Here are a couple ways Talent Acquisitions can work with HR policy to develop language that can support anxieties felt by both the talent pool and current employees:

Align screening with current policies and company values

Chances are, if a company is implementing social media screening as part of the pre-employment process, it is already acting on particular values. However, a candidate may not immediately see that when first being asked to sign a social media screening waiver. Connecting the dots for potential employees is yet another touchpoint for HR employees to bring their candidates into alignment with the company. Overmanaging this moment by specific explaining which values are being acted upon with a social media screening may help guide a candidate past their big-brother fears to a deeper respect for the company’s culture.

Practically, there are a couple of ways this may be implemented:

  1. Use broad values such as employee accountability and workplace safety. Safety functions as a broad net to account for all business-related behavior.
  2. Use policies on specific behavior: draw connections between sexual harassment, nonviolence clauses, and social media screening. It helps to emphasize that a screening is limited to publicly available BUSINESS-related behavior. 

Elevate the Candidate Experience

Overmanaging the candidate experience is useful in a variety of ways, but it also helps build trust in your brand--which may come in handy even after each hiring search closes. There are a couple nuanced ways to make the hiring process more human:

  1. Use extra touches. Even if it’s using an AI assistant, the extra attention can help make a candidate feel like they haven’t gotten lost in a depersonalized process. 
  2. Plot out the candidate’s “journey”. Have a clear understanding of what your candidate experiences when coming through the talent pipeline and determine what they might be feeling at each stage of the process. What should they expect from the process? How do you, as the employer, set the tone? Take steps to overmanage those fears and questions and use transparency in the process as much as is appropriate.

Explain Consent Clearly and Use a Third Party!

While googling a candidate or doing an informal social media search is by no means new, it could expose hiring managers to protected class information, which could lead to hiring bias and discrimination claims. To avoid violating a candidates’ privacy and exposing hiring managers to unnecessary risk, outsource social media screening to a third party. 

As part of the social media screening process, it is also vitally important for companies to obtain consent from the candidate. This could look much like a consent form for a criminal background check, but it can also be an opportunity for employers to answer various questions about social media screening all in one place. For example, a consent form could explain that flagged hits do not necessarily trigger an adverse action process--if that is indeed the case. (For more information about how to adjudicate social media screening reports, click here).

Why Bother with Any of This?

Managing the candidate experience gives companies a competitive advantage. After all, candidates and employees are a company’s first customers. Treating the talent pool with extra care and providing more opportunities for positive touchpoints could turn some candidates into evangelists--even if they ultimately don’t end up with an offer letter.


Social Intel is happy to provide free adjudication training to all of its clients. For a more detailed look at how Social Intel can fit into your background screening workflow, check out our resource page.