Using Social Media for Background Checks

Recent information indicates that up to 79 percent of employers currently use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace for conducting background checks on job applicants.  There are important considerations to keep in mind if you engage in this practice.

Before conducting any applicant background checks, have a policy in place that spells out how your company will use social media for those checks and follow that policy consistently.  Do not use social media for screening candidates or for spot checks. As with any background check, wait to begin the process for finalists only after all interviewing has been completed. Background checks should not be done by the hiring manager, but instead by a third party such as the HR department or an independent third-party such as MSEC’s Pre-Employment Screening services.

When making hiring decisions, do not consider information found on the social media site that is not job-related, such as legal off-duty activities and behaviors, personal opinions, and attitudes. It is always illegal to consider protected class status (race, color, religion, age 40 and over, national origin, family/genetic information, etc.) when making a hiring decision. If you hire an outside party to conduct your background checks, this information can be redacted from your results so that hiring managers will not be influenced by non-work-related information.

Remember that information obtained from the Internet may be inaccurate. Therefore, all information that could potentially be used in making a hiring decision should be independently verified. Finally, never use false pretenses to gain access to a candidate’s or employee’s social media site. Instead, have the applicant sign a release authorizing access.