Social Media Background Checks-- Are They Worth the Risk? 

09/19/2022 10:10 AM By Kayla Florence

Being aware of the criminal, educational, and professional history of someone you want to hire is very important; background checks can be an essential part of the hiring process. It is a great way to get a sense of a candidate’s personality in a way that is not expressed on their resume. Popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn seem to present a perfect opportunity to evaluate a person’s character and behavior.  

Companies have the right to examine public social media pages to assess professionalism and dependability. You wouldn’t necessarily want to hire someone who speaks negatively about your business online or say, a preschool teacher tweeting about how much she hated her students. Probing through prospective employees’ social media accounts provides a preview of whom you are incorporating with yourself, your current employees, and your overall business.

Many people think this is an acceptable, beneficial way to determine who will be a good addition to your work environment and culture. Others believe the risk outweighs the benefits. Reviewing and pondering the pros and cons can decide what is best for you and your business.

Benefits of social media screening:


1.   Protecting your brand image

Screening the social media of someone who represents the company or works directly with customers may render more important than doing so for a back-end staff member who stays anonymous beyond their job title.


2.   Detecting problematic behavior

Being greeted with hate speech, depictions of violence, and/or extensive drug or alcohol use plastered across a social media page can be very off-putting when considering someone to hire. You may want to look for behaviors that manifest themselves in the work environment.


3.   Analyzing culture  

By screening a candidate’s social media, you can ensure that their goals and values align with your brand’s. If you can get a good sense of their personality and things that are important to them, you can see if they will be a good match for the company culture.


Though they are benefits, these reasons leave room for legal action to be taken if not done with caution. Failing to implement fair hiring in compliance with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can lead to significant consequences. Among the repercussions, you may run the risk of being sued for discrimination for infringing upon protected characteristics like age, race, religion, disability, etc.


Threats of social media screening:


1.   Mistaken identities

Whether it’s a case of hacking, catfishing, or mistaken identity, there are various reasons why someone’s social media accounts/posts may not be a true reflection of their thoughts or actions. Being able to hide behind any username and avatar creates space that can be considered a new form of identity theft.

2.   Unveiled Biases

If you go on someone’s social media and see something you do not particularly agree with or like you may use that information to make a hiring decision. This is not only illegal but unfair to an applicant who may be completely different from the judgments you made from their account.


3.   Diminishing Trust

A company snooping through a prospect’s personal information and accounts may incline candidates/employees to feel like their privacy is invaded and make assumptions that your business is controlling, and they may not want to be a part of it. 

While it can take a human several hours to thoroughly analyze an applicant's social media presence by themselves, Background Partners' social media background checks creatively use artificial intelligence to support in completing them within approximately thirty minutes. We examine prospective employees' online activity for behavior that can put your company at risk including hate speech, obscene language, bullying, and threat of violence. Contact us for your comprehensive background check, drug testing, and occupational health needs to get your new employees onboarded easier and faster, with more confidence.