Importance of Social Media Background Checks

Background checks

As background checks become more integrated into many employers’ hiring processes, employers around the country need to be aware of legal pitfalls when screening potential employees. Social media accounts can provide useful information for employers; however, these checks must be compliant.

Compliant social media screening does the following:

  • Provides relevant Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)-required authorization and disclosures. These authorizations must get explicit permission from the candidate, allowing the employer to continuously monitor social media while employed.
  • Focuses only on business-related communication that is publicly available.
  • Does not use information obtained by illegal or unethical means, such as hacking.
  • Makes a good-faith effort to ensure they are reviewing the right candidate.

Social media background checks can be very useful when conducted in a compliant manner. The employer will quickly scan public profiles on major social media websites in these reviews. In addition, they may do a more in-depth scan of blogs, comments, and other digital activities. This information can shed additional information that an employer would not receive through an application or resume. Employers look for common red flags, including discriminatory, racist, or sexist communication, explicit content, illegal activity, and violent language or behavior. If you find these elements on social media accounts, you may likely have issues with the employee in the future.

Online social media activity can be useful in making hiring determinations. In addition, these checks often provide the following benefits:

  • Social media background checks can give you an idea of whether the candidate would be a good fit for your company’s existing culture. Social media accounts often reflect the individual’s values, goals, and personality. This information can help determine how well someone may fit in with your current team.
  • Social media background checks can often reveal ‘red flags’ or warning signs that the individual may not be reliable or honest. Many news stories discuss employees who have been terminated due to online activity inconsistent with the company’s values. Doing a quick preliminary screening of social media accounts can prevent having to take disciplinary action later.
  • Conducting social media background checks can also reduce the risk for employers. For example, erratic and illegal behaviors referenced on social media accounts can indicate the employer may want to steer clear of the employee since hiring them would likely be a huge risk. And by avoiding a potential PR disaster, you are in a better position to protect your company’s reputation.

And while these benefits could contribute heavily to an employer’s final decision and result in better hiring decisions, conducting social media background checks does come with a few ethical concerns and cautions. First, it’s important to remember that not all information found on the internet is true. Additionally, some people have multiple accounts under the same name, while others may share a name with multiple individuals, which makes it hard to identify which accounts are credible. The potential pitfalls mean you could make a hiring decision based on false information. Therefore, when conducting social media screenings, it’s vital to do everything possible to ensure you are looking at the right accounts.

Social media background checks must comply with federal regulations, similar to criminal background check requirements. If you come across protected information while screening social media accounts, you must be sure that it does not impact your hiring decision. For example, you may be able to ascertain much personal information about an individual. But the EEOC requires that you do not discriminate based on age, discrimination status, pregnancy or family status, disability, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or race. Using this information – even if it’s found on social media accounts – would be illegal and expose your company to the risk of a discrimination lawsuit.

Social media background checks are often also very time-consuming, so you can easily lose hours of time trying to determine the right accounts to check. Because conducting background checks can be very time-intensive and comes with many legal pitfalls, many companies have determined that working with a third-party reporting agency is the easiest method.

Working with a third-party company ensures that experts are reviewing the information. These individuals know how to identify candidates’ right accounts and can give you the necessary information to make better hiring decisions without revealing protected information or increasing your legal liability. To learn more about social media background checks and how they can enhance your hiring process, contact USA Fact today!

USA Fact Global Screening Services provides comprehensive background and criminal checks for employers that comply with federal and local laws. By helping you eliminate high-risk applicants through tailored solutions, USAFact enables you to create a safe and productive work environment and a foundation for future success.