Social Media Screening: Protect Your Future from Past Posts

Social media screening, background check

As social media has become a more prominent element in most people’s lives, it also plays a more pivotal role in hiring. We’ve all heard horror stories about finding the perfect candidate only to have an old or new social media post turn up that’s incompatible with the company’s values. Many companies have had to do some serious damage control after an incident like this. And while this scenario may seem rare, it’s more common than you think.

Over half of all employers screen potential new hires and current employees’ social media accounts. And some companies that haven’t implemented this practice are strongly considering it. With so many potential employers making social media screening a larger part of their hiring practices, it’s worth understanding the complexities of screening job candidates’ social media accounts.

What types of content should employers screen for?

When considering what content would make you feel uncomfortable with an employee posting, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

When screening social media accounts, be consistent and refer to your company social media policy. Avoid making personal judgments. Common types of posts that can indicate a candidate may be problematic include:

  • Inappropriate photos: Scanning for photos involving illegal activity, promoting violence, discrimination, or racism. Excessive use of alcohol or marijuana should also be part of your review.
  • Information about a current or previous employer: One huge red flag is seeing old posts about past employers. Depending on the content and context of the post, it could be a breach of privacy, indicating they may have legal problems with a past employer. Additionally, remember that if they are willing to post negative content about a past employer online, they likely won’t hesitate to do it with a current employer. A professional candidate will address grievances through an employer’s existing grievance channels rather than blasting them on social media, and companies should be leery of any candidate that is willing to do so. 
  • Discriminatory posts: Companies have a legal obligation to prevent and address discrimination in the workplace. Therefore, seeing a potential employee engage in discriminatory behavior online means they would open the company up to huge liability issues if they hired someone like this and that person continued to be discriminatory. This type of content is a huge red flag for an employee that may become problematic.
  • Engaging in excessive drinking or taking drugs: All employers want employees that will be responsible and professional. And while having a few drinks after work isn’t illegal, a candidate that posts excessively about drinking or drug use may not be as reliable as alternative candidates. Additionally, most drugs are still illegal, which could be a problem if they were to engage in drug use at the work site.
  • Poor grammar or communication: Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but having frequent posts with grammatical errors or that demonstrate one is unable to communicate effectively could signal to a potential employee that may have issues with communication.
  • Posting too often: There is nothing wrong with posting frequently. However, a candidate that posts excessively throughout the workday could be wasting time unproductively rather than focusing on their tasks.

These are some of the most egregious and common posts that become problematic and could jeopardize a candidate’s chances of landing a job with your company. But before you start screening the social media accounts of candidates, it’s important to remember they do have a right to privacy with some of this content. Therefore, when reviewing your candidates’ social media accounts, consider the following:

  • Social media screening done by employers is restricted to publicly available information.
  • You cannot punish someone for discussing your pay, job conditions, or terms of employment.
  • You may still post political content – not hate speech – while off the clock.

There are two main types of social media screening tools offered by USAFact:

  • Manually reviewed: a segmented specialized social media report that may be used to vet a potential candidate. This type is most often a part of the pre-employment background check.
  • Automated:  AI-powered scan of all of the selected social media accounts. Within minutes, the candidate receives a report that flags questionable or damaging posts for users to edit, ignore, or delete.  Employers typically offer this service to new hires as an employee benefit. 

Social media screening by employers is becoming a common hiring process component to ensure they secure the best candidates. To learn more about social media screening and background checks for your company, contact USAFact today!

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