October 5th, 2017 | Debbie Lamb, Sterling Talent Solutions

Social Media Screening Continues Its Upward Trend

Social media is a becoming a key social media recruiting tool. HR teams, recruiters, and employers are using social networks to recruit candidates and to conduct background screening to confirm a candidate’s qualifications for a job. 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 networking is used by 82% of the organizations surveyed to recruit managers and other salaried employees (87%) and hourly employees (55%).

Social media screening humanizes the candidate and makes them more than just the words on their resume. According to CareerBuilder’s 2017 social media recruitment survey, 70% of US employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, up from 60% in 2016 and 11% a decade ago. Employers are also using Google, Yahoo and Bing to research potential candidates. More and more companies are adding social media screening as a part of their background screening process. In fact, 54% of hiring managers who screen candidates via social networks said they’d found information that causes them not to hire a candidate.

Background Screening Trends

SHRM included social media screening as one of the top human capital management trends of 2017 as well as ban-the-box and the prevalence of utilizing screening data for hiring purposes. What do HR professionals think are important topics in their industry? Sterling 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 uncovers details how HR professionals think about components of the hiring process and how they relate to the background screening industry, how emerging technology is impacting the candidate experience and emerging trends in employment background screening.

One of the emerging trends in background screening and one that employers are still not comfortable with is social media screening. 34% of survey respondents indicated that they perform social media checks on prospective employees. Of the companies that are conducting social media checks, 95% of the screenings are conducted internally and 5% are outsourced to a third party. In 2015, our survey found that 63% of companies conduct their social media screening in-house compared to 95% of this screening being performed internally in 2017.

  • 57% of the social media checks are conducted by someone internally on the HR team
  • 21% of these checks are informally conducted by someone other than the HR team
  • 17% is conducted by the hiring manager
  • 5% are conducted by a third-party vendor

When it comes to social media screening, compliance is critical. Often, candidates will put information online containing information that cannot be used to make a hiring decision, such as age, gender or religion. It is critical to work with legal counsel to outline a social media screening policy to help establish a social media screening process in your background screening policy.

Social Media Screening

Online profiles can be very revealing with both positive and negative content being shared in what is a very public domain. The content on social media profiles can share a lot of distracting information, but it can also give a unique insight into a job candidate. Some information can be applied to a hiring decision, while other cannot. Employers must remain compliant and take great care when exposed to information about a candidate’s private life.

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 online networks for recruitment purposes. Sterling discussed what social media screening is, why it is a valuable part of the background screening process in our webinar, “Social Media Background Screening: Compliance Risks vs. Employer Rewards“.

Using a Third-party Social Media Screening Solution

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 the job and workplace safety. A hiring manager could look at a social media profile and unconsciously (or consciously) make a hiring decision based on looks or post types. A third-party provider will help a company mitigate their risks. There is a fine line between being compliant and looking at information about a candidate’s personal life from their online profiles. “Protected characteristics” such as age, disability, gender identity, marital status, race, religious beliefs, sex or sexual orientation, which can be easily seen on online profiles, cannot be considered by employers during the hiring process.

Companies who have not implemented a social media search program as part of their background screening program should take an in-depth look at their business’ needs and determine the value they would receive from implementing it into their employment background screening program. From identifying the best candidates to maintaining compliance, it’s good to get a plan in place to understand the reasons screening matters to your organization. To learn more about the key insights on background screening practices, priorities and challenges, download the Background Screening Trends and Best Practices Report 2017.

Download the 2017 Background Screening Trends Report

Sterling is not a law firm. 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.