COVID-19 Update: Despite court closures in many areas, Sterling is still able to complete criminal checks with minimal disruption thanks to our proprietary end-to-end automation that allows us to access court information. For additional info on how Sterling is handling the COVID-19 situation, please visit our COVID-19 page.

August 17th, 2017 | Debbie Lamb, Sterling Talent Solutions

Social Media Reviews Offer a More Holistic View of Candidates: Inc. Interview with Clare Hart

We live in a social world. Try to imagine a time, not even fifteen years ago, when there wasn’t social media. Some might argue that was a better world, while others would miss being connected to friends, family and being on top of the most current news. According to We Are Social, the number of active social media users in the US is 214 million and 190 million of these people engage with social media via their mobile devices. The most popular social media platforms in the US are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Social media is being used by all age groups from Generation Z to baby boomers and beyond. The use of social media is now a vital part of business models and strategies from marketing to recruiting to background screening.

Clare Hart, CEO of Sterling, had the opportunity to speak with Wanda Thibodeaux for about the risks and rewards of social media reviews. They previously spoke about how to “make it” in the technology industry where they discussed a variety of topics from mentoring to the importance of people and striving for balance in a world of technology.

Social Media Reviews and Recruiting

Using social media to support the recruitment process can provide valuable opportunities for both the candidate and the employer. A recent survey from The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found “the number one reason employers engage in social media channels is to attract potential candidates not yet looking for a new job.” Social media is used by 82% of the organizations surveyed to recruit managers and other salaried employees (87%) and hourly employees (55%).

According to Clare Hart, “Integrating social media review into screening processes offers a more holistic, broader view of candidates.” Many of the social networks – such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – can prove to be very effective when identifying and communicating with top talent. Researching an applicant on social media may also enable employers to find out a little more about them, rather than just relying on the information on their résumé. Vetting social media profiles can provide both positive and negative unique insight into a candidate and may reveal potentially unlawful, violent, racist, intolerant and sexually explicit behaviors that would not show up during the interview process.

Who Is Conducting Social Media Screening?

Sterling recently surveyed 500+ US-based employers in 33 industries about their use of background screening to gain key insights into emerging trends, technology and more. The 2017 Background Screening Trends & Best Practices Report took the pulse of how companies are using background screening as part of their hiring process. A majority of survey respondents (89%) currently conduct employment background checks with 80% saying that the screening uncovers issues or information that they wouldn’t have found otherwise.

The most popular screening checks to evaluate prospective employees are: criminal record checks, employment and education verifications and Form I-9/E-verify. Social media searches are low on the priority list with only 34% of respondents saying they currently conduct social media checks on their employees.  If a business said they were doing social media screening, they shared that most of the searches are conducted in-house by the HR team, hiring manager or another executive.

Compliance is Critical for Social Media Reviews

Social media can be useful when trying to source candidates. However, there are pitfalls that employers must be aware of if they are using social media to screen – and reject – an individual. When it comes to social media screening, compliance is critical. Often, candidates will put content online containing information that cannot be used to make a hiring decision, such as age, gender or religion.

“With the explosion of social media engagement,” Hart said, “candidates often share information online that cannot be used to make a hiring decision [in the United States], such as age, gender or religion. Our [survey] found that 95% of social media/web searches are being conducted internally, which could potentially expose companies to compliance risk.”

A hiring manager, employer or HR manager must be compliant with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rulings when performing social media searches. A DIY approach to social media screening increases a company’s liability. Candidates must be informed if a social media or other online source is used to research information that could affect their application. Also, social media searches should be carried out as late in the recruitment process as reasonably practical.

Use a Third Party Background Screening Provider for Social Media Reviews

It is highly recommended to use a third-party screening company for social media searches. A third party social screening solution will only focus on the relevant information that relates to job performance and workplace safety. Whereas, a hiring manager could look at a social media profile and unconsciously (or consciously) make a hiring decision based on looks or post types. There is a fine line between being compliant and looking at information about a candidate’s personal life from their social media profiles. “Protected characteristics” such as age, disability, gender identity, marital status, race, religious beliefs, sex or sexual orientation, which can be easily seen on social media profiles, cannot be considered by employers during the hiring process.

With social media screening becoming more prevalent in the hiring process, it is very important that employers develop a clear policy towards the use of social media for recruitment purposes. Companies should have a background screening policy in place to help document compliance and the hiring process. Find out more about social media reviews and the benefits of using a third party background screening vendor at the Sterling Talent Solution’s website.


This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.