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Should Employers Use Social Media for Background Checks?
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Should Employers Use Social Media for Background Checks?

by Konstantinos M.February 16, 2017

In their efforts to ensure that they’re hiring the right people for their jobs, employers conduct background checks. That those background checks include surfing the Internet and using social media, like candidates Facebook pages, has met with some debate.

A Slippery Slope

“Employers using social media to filter candidates for jobs have to be very cautious. While some information might be useful, for instance the person is connected to current employees and is part of professional industry forum groups, other information such as religion, marital status, or other confidential information relative to hiring practices, may prove to be a liability for companies,” said Tony Deblauwe, founder of HR4Change in an e-mail interview.

“The reality is social media tools are here to stay. Recruiters will search sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to provide clues into someone’s professional and personal fit. For most employers, I see this as a possible data point but not the sole basis for a hiring decision unless the person has notable concerns like posts of illegal activity, racism, etc. And certainly social media screening cannot take the place of a legally sanctioned formal background check process.”

Josh Mendelsohn, vice-president of Chadwick Martin Bailey, also in an e-mail interview, agreed with Deblauwe that employers have to be careful when conducting background checks but his tone suggests that he supports the practice. “Certainly it is appropriate to make sure people are being accurate with the way that they represent themselves. And for public facing positions, any public information about a candidate is relevant to their ability to enhance a company’s brand.  For internal positions, however, hiring managers need to be sensitive to generational differences and limit the extent to which they judge a candidate professionally based on limited personal information. That being said, prospective employees need to understand that employers may be taking a look and adjust their content and security settings appropriately to reduce the amount of misunderstanding that might occur.”

Detractors Notwithstanding, It Can Be Useful

Some people, like Laurie Ruettimann, are strongly opposed to the use of social media for background checks. Others, like Kimbirly Orr, chief media officer of Viral Media West, see nothing wrong with it.

“Hiring someone is an investment. Of time, money and resources such as training. By utilizing all the tools available, including social media, an employer has the opportunity to garner much more than a “reference” traditionally provides,” Orr stressed.

Using Social Media as Part of Background Checks

The debate about whether or not employers should use social media as part of their background checks on job candidates will likely continue. Many people, especially job seekers, don’t like the idea. Many others embrace it.

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Konstantinos M.

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