Social Media Background Checks

Did you know that between 70 and 90 percent of employers in the United States incorporate some form of social media screening before they hire a candidate? While resumes, interviews and often reference checks are the staple of a recruiter’s life, social media has become an almost equally important tool for hiring. What better way to get to “know” a candidate than to review their social media posts? After all, social media was created for the sole purpose of connecting people and it has evolved to become a resume for an individual’s life. Over the past decade the share of the US population using social media has climbed from just over 50% to now almost 80% of the population.

A survey by CareerBuilder showed that while 70% of all employers use social media to screen their candidates, the more astonishing number is, of those employers, more than 50% said they found something that made the employer not hire the candidate. Other studies on this topic put this percentage closer to 69%.

So what are employers using to review a candidate’s public social media posts?

What studies have shown is that most employers, and more specifically the hiring managers, are simply logging onto their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts and casually browsing the candidate’s social media posts. This approach can create a slew of legal issues and put your company at risk of violating EEOC protected class information as well as FCRA rules. In other words, your hiring managers are putting the entire company at risk of a potential class action lawsuit. The best way to avoid these potential legal issues to outsource this function to a company which offers FCRA certified reports. This not only ensures you will abide by government rules and regulations, but you can ensure that the process is both consistent and thorough.

Is social media screening legal?

Since we know already from above that over 70% of employers are doing some form of social media screening, albeit in an ad-hoc manner, it’s beneficial to put in place a more sound and repeatable process across all of your divisions to ensure every hiring manager is following the same process. This is to the benefit of both the company as well as the candidate. The worst thing is having one of your hiring managers looking at an incorrect social media profile — one that they believe to belong to the candidate they are considering hiring when in reality it’s a completely unrelated profile. At this point you might want to say to yourself “well it’s simply not worth doing social media background screening”. There are many companies that have come to this same conclusion, mainly due to the amount of misinformation that is out there. But we are here to clear this up and tell you that in fact, social media background screening is perfectly legal.

The FTC ruled on social media screening back in 2011 and came to this very conclusion. But you should be aware of some caveats

1. Get permission from your candidate. This is required based on FCRA guidelines and is no different than any other background check.

2. Only pull public posts. This one is important. You can only view posts which the candidate made publicly.

3. Don’t ask for passwords to their social media accounts or accept friend requests. This can violate many states social media privacy laws.

If you follow the three items above and outsource this function, you are well on your way to ensuring you are staying legal and can start benefiting from the information from these reports.

The Top 3 Benefits of Social Media Background Checks

There are numerous benefits to performing social media screening on your candidates. Below are the top three reasons why you should be doing social media screening on your candidates.

1. Protects your brand. No company wants to hire someone that doesn’t reflect their core values and by their individual actions tarnish the company’s brand.

2. Protects your employees. Workplace safety is no longer just in the domain of your corporate security folks. Human resources should take responsibility to ensure the employees they are hiring do not represent a threat to other employees.

3. Reduces turnover costs. Studies have shown that the average cost of hiring a toxic employee and then having to replace that employee is over $12,800. When factoring in lost productivity by the team, this cost can soar.

What types of information does social media checks provide?

At Validity, we believe the customer should decide what candidate characteristics and risks they care about, not some third-party company. Because we have incorporated artificial intelligence to analyze every post and image, we are able to provide more insight than any other company providing social media screening services. Of course, we have human analysts which augment the AI to ensure identity and accuracy, but with AI, you simply get more detail than any service which provides human-only analysis.

Validity uses machine learning and natural language processing and has 13 risk classifications, in addition to keyword matching and sentiment analysis. All of this happens in typically under 30 minutes and we deliver the most comprehensive report in the industry for your candidates. We also are the only service in this space which gives you the power to perform your own social media background checks. Our platform is easy to get started and highly intuitive.

The following is a list of the types of risks we identify:

Hate Speech
Derogatory, abusive and/or threatening statements toward a specific group of people typically on the
basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.
Insults and Bullying
Name calling or derogatory statements toward an individual about their physical characteristics such
as weight, height, looks, intelligence, etc.

Statements related to drugs and/or drug use including slang words, street names and phrases.
Obscene Language
Profanity, cursing, swearing or in general crude or vulgar words and phrases
Political Speech
Statements considered relating to politics or governmental affairs. This could include politicians,
policies, or the political process. These often focus on specific issues such as abortion, environmental,
immigration, government, etc.
Indications of wanting to hurt oneself or take one’s own life intentionally
Sexual Impropriety
Includes expressions relating to sexual misconduct that could be considered sexually demeaning or
sexual harassment
Statements expressing radical viewpoints typically related to politics or religion and considered outside
of mainstream attitudes
Threat of Violence
An intent to inflict harm or loss of another person’s life.
Toxic Language
A way of communicating that is considered to be rude, disrespectful, blaming, labelling or using guilt.
Drug-related Images
Images of pills, syringes, paraphernalia and alcohol
Explicit/Racy Images
Mostly explicit nudity and some partial nudity
Violent Images
Images of disfigurations, open wounds, burns, crime scenes and guns/weapons
Flags posts based on matches to custom keywords provided. Keywords can be designated negative,
positive or neutral.