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7 myths about social media screening

Screening • Aug 1, 2022 2:00:00 PM • Written by: Georgia Reynolds


Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter plus many more are now household names for everyone from generation Z to millennials through to the silver surfers. Around the world, there are approximately 3 billion social media users so not only is it here to stay, but it's also a significant source of information. According to SHRM, 71% of recruiters have said social checks are effective in decreasing time-to-hire.

Many companies are increasingly considering the use of this information as a formal part of their recruitment process. There are some challenges with social media screening but in the main, there are more myths. The main challenge can be to ensure that your use of social media in the recruitment process is compliant and understand what exactly “compliant screening” means.

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Myth 1: Including social media screening in your recruitment process is not legal.

Well, that all depends on how it’s done. You need to ensure that it’s compliant. A line manager casually checking out a candidate on Facebook is unlikely to be compliant. This would disclose too much-protected information such as religion, race, and sexual orientation (to name just a few).

So how do you make it compliant? The candidate should provide relevant consent and the results returned will remove protected information ready to present. Also ensuring that you have the correct candidate, just googling their name is going to return a significant number of false results.

Myth 2: Recruiting managers can conduct social media screenings.

Nothing is stopping a recruiting manager from putting the candidate's name into google or seeing what they have on Facebook but that doesn’t mean they should. For starters, as we point out in myth 1, you can’t be making recruitment decisions based on protected information and it would be very hard to defend that this hadn’t been considered. Also, the amount of data held online is vast so without the correct tools (including AI) and experience it can be very time-consuming to navigate and collect all the open-source information.

Myth 3: Social media screening is invasive.

We understand people’s need for privacy and everyone has control of their privacy settings on their social media accounts. However, if the information is public then that’s who can see it, your customers and staff. So the information is already out there and you have a right to know if the candidate you are considering is publicly sharing content that could be racist or intolerant, sexually explicit, potentially illegal, or perhaps violent. Taking that one step further you could argue that you have a responsibility to know about such behaviour which could affect your business, your clients, and your staff.

Myth 4: We don’t need social media screening, we already do other background checks like criminal records.

Background checks are an imperative part of any recruitment process, however, they focus on the past, confirming the CV, and looking for potentially serious issues. With social media screening, you can add a different aspect that not only supports background checks but can give a snapshot of who the candidate is today. This will also give you an unvarnished view of that candidate, not just the person you meet in the interview.

Myth 5: It’s only really the likes of Facebook and Twitter that matter.

Of course, they do matter as that’s where the majority of people interact but that doesn’t mean we can ignore other existing or new social media platforms. On Tumblr there are 500 million active users per month, Snapchat has 200 million active users per month, Reddit has 100 million active users per month and even MySpace is still plugging away with 20 million active users per month. They are just a few of the numerous social media platforms out there.

Myth 6: This is only an issue for big businesses.

The impact of a bad hire on a small business can be catastrophic. Larger organisations appreciate the need for background checks to support the recruitment process and minimise their risk exposure but that risk is multiplied in a smaller company. Imagine if you employ 10 people for example and one turns out to be not what they claimed, that’s 10% of your workforce.

Myth 7: Social media screening makes sense before employing someone but ongoing it’s a waste of time and money.

Carrying out more regular checks isn’t about spying on or watching employees judge them. The goal is to monitor content in the critical areas. Consider what happens after a candidate becomes an employee - the risk is now increased as they are through the door and representing your company. Wouldn’t you want to know if they’re sharing inappropriate and/or illegal content on social media?

Interested in discussing something you've read in one of our blogs?

Georgia Reynolds

Marketing Coordinator – Content