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How Social Media Search Impacts Background Screening

Whether you’re searching for a job yourself or helping candidates advance their careers, you should be aware of the potential effect a person’s social media usage can have on an employer – because it can make or break the chances of success.

Telling Revelations About a Person

A social media search can offer a more holistic view of a candidate and reveal insights into their personality, interests, and behaviors. It can help identify telling details that other aspects of a background check may not. These may include red flags to hiring, such as indications of:

  • Crime: posts, memes, images, cartoons, or other content, even from legitimate sources, that points to involvement in or support of illegal activity.
  • Violence: posts that support or incite it in any way.
  • Prejudice: content that contains racism, sexism, homophobia, slurs, stereotypes, or any other form of intolerance or hate speech.
  • Use of illicit drugs or substances: posts that may promote or show the practice of using illegal drugs or abusing prescription medications.

A social media background check can also be useful for determining:

  • How professional a person is: Employers look for an overall polished, mature presentation of a candidate’s image. This doesn’t rule out pictures of people enjoying themselves; in fact, a healthy work/life balance is a desirable and positive sign. But, photos of wild spring break parties or snarky comments disparaging a former boss should be cause for concern, as should a plethora of personal content posted during what should be working hours.
  • Whether or not a candidate would be a good cultural fit: Social media can often provide an accurate look into an individual’s preferences, hobbies, and other free-time activities. This can help determine if they would mesh well into a specific work environment.
  • How strong a communicator someone is: How well does a person write? They don’t have to be Pulitzer-level authors, but what about basic spelling and grammar? Are their posts well thought out and worded? Social media posts shouldn’t be the sole criteria for judging communication skills, but they can be helpful, especially if a position is relevant, for instance, a marketing or PR job.
  • Whether or not an individual would pose a liability: A company can be held liable for any questionable actions on the part of its employees, so any content that could be damaging to one’s reputation or image is notable. Examples might include bigoted remarks, tasteless photos or statements, or patterns of generally bad behavior.

It’s Best to Work with Experts

Employers should tread carefully when scrutinizing a candidate’s public profile in the early stages of hiring – just as job seekers should be mindful of everything they post online. Employers should be ever vigilant about not violating any anti-discrimination laws or risking a costly lawsuit.

If a social media review is done properly and in compliance with all applicable laws, it can reveal valuable information about job candidates. But, there can be a lot involved. So to ensure you do it right, avoid any legal landmines, and ensure that your social media policy is rock solid, consider working with an experienced provider like Chane Solutions. We’re proud to be the employment screening and drug testing provider of choice for employers nationwide. Contact us today to learn more.


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