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Social Media Background Screening

What is a pre-employment Social Media Background Screening?


A pre-employment social media background screening, (also known as a social media background check) is the process of investigating a job applicant's profiles and activities on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others. The goal is to learn more about the applicant's background and see if there is anything that the company should be aware of before making an employment offer.


What are the red flags during a social media background screening?


During a social media background check, information may surface that indicates an employee isn't a good fit for the company. There are so-called red flags, which may or may not impair a person's ability to perform the job, but which tend to turn off employers. 


The following are red flags that should be taken seriously during a social media background screening:


  • Unlawful behaviour (drugs, underage drinking, etc.)
  • Comments that are racist or sexist
  • Aggressive or violent behaviour (including trolling or stalking)
  • Sexually explicit content
  • Information that is confidential


What are the advantages of employers conducting social media background screening?


Employers benefit from social media background checks because they:


  • Look for evidence that backs up an applicant's resume claims.
  • Save time by not having to call and speak with an applicant's personal and professional references.
  • Investigate a potential employee's professional endorsements and business network.
  • Check for risks involved and red flags in a potential employee.
  • Reduce the number of employee complaints, disciplinary actions, and turnover.


Are social media background screenings ethical?


Employers may choose to conduct both internal and pre-employment social media background screenings. However, despite the potential benefits, there is time-consuming work involved as well as (sometimes serious) risk.

When an employer conducts a thorough background check on an employee or potential employee, there is a risk of inadvertently or intentionally violating personal freedoms or discrimination laws.

Discrimination claims are another obvious risk that can arise from conducting internal social media audits. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states unequivocally that employees and job applicants are protected "from employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin." When an employer chooses to learn more about a person's personal information, the company opens itself up to potential legal action.

Furthermore, the idea of an employer prying into one's personal life does not always rest well with employees. They may feel deeply affected, judged, untrustworthy, annoyed, or even censored. An employee may question whether actions were taken in their favour or against them based on their likes, interests, friends, photos, or public musings. This is not a good sign for mutual trust and loyalty.

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