October 28th, 2021 | Sterling

The Rise of Social Media Screening in a Changing Hiring Process

Young hipster using a mobile phone

As remote work has increased over the last year and a half, so has social media usage. The rise in activity on social media paired with the new normal of interviewing and hiring from a distance, there are implications on the hiring process that have been brought to the forefront. We sat down with Ken Schnee and Ben Mones to discuss the impact of social media on the hiring process and trends effecting the screening world. This Q&A will help you answer the question on how you can make more informed decisions about your candidates while continuing to hire quickly and with confidence.

Ben Mones

Ben is the CEO and Co-founder of Fama, the world’s largest social media screening company and leader in the application of artificial intelligence technology in background screening services.

Ken Schnee

The current General Manager of the Technology, Media Entertainment, and Hospitality group at Sterling. A talent industry veteran with over 12 years’ experience, he brings extensive expertise in sales, operations, and technological innovation to his current role.

Q: What is social media screening?

Ben: Social media screening is a technology that allows a business to bring in insights from the publicly available web. It looks deeper into candidates, their words, their actions that might have an impact on the brand that they’re building and culture that they’re contributing to when they join an organization. Social media screening is a way to leverage the online record and to identify these sorts of things for employers.

This type of screening is about identifying the incongruencies, the online behaviors that might be negatively contributing to brand perception. If a prospect or customer sees a social media posts from an employee of your organization and then says, “Oh my gosh, is that type of person I want to buy from? Is that really the person who I want to be engaging with?”, the question becomes: How do I ensure the people that I’m hiring are going to be contributing to building a great culture rather than taking away from it?

As a social media screening company, we’re searching publicly available information on people instead, really allowing hiring managers to bring insights from the public web into their pre-employment screening workflow.

Q: How does this fit into the entire hiring process?

Ben: I wouldn’t say that it’s a replacement for background checks, or other types of verifications. Instead, social media checks are complementary to the various checks we run today.

What are the things that you know modern employers care about? We look at this broader question of how do I ensure this person is a good fit? How can we ensure this person is going into every interaction with our clients and upholding our brand values?

I think this is what modern customers and modern employees of companies are asking of the businesses that they buy from or join, respectively.

I think of the information that employers have access to when they’re making a hiring decision in the pre-employment screening phase.

It’s never been more important to make sure we have the right person internally. A lot of these things are about culture and making sure you are upholding your company values.

Ken: When you think about background screening, the landscape and the idea of it has changed so drastically. It’s not just about finding out if somebody is a criminal or if they have a positive or negative drug test. It’s now about casting the widest net and putting a lens on the individuals that you’re going to hire and accessing all the available data you can to make an informed decision. It’s critical that you look at the broader picture and make a decision on how to keep your organization safe.

Q: Can you explain how Fama and Sterling work together for diligent social media screening?

Ken: When we formed a partnership with Fama, we built an extremely configurable solution. It’s critical that social media checks become as seamless as everything else running in your hiring program, including criminal searches, drug testing, and any type of verification.

We went above and beyond what the industry standards were for integration. All the integrations that you deploy with us seamlessly integrate end-to-end and allow you to use the solution as if it’s one product.

Our integration allows you to customize exactly what you’re going to see and what you’re not going to see. This helps you with complying with applicable anti-discrimination laws and your company guidelines.

Ben: Companies want the the dirt, but they don’t want everything else, and I think that’s an important piece of this. Part of Sterling’s partnership is that they allow us to deliver social media insights in a way that’s relevant to the modern consumer and the modern employer.

Q: It seems like social media screening is rapidly growing in 2021. Why is that?

Ben: We have been seeing rapid expansion and adoption of social media usage over the past 18 months. With remote work, we have been living out our identities on the Internet as opposed to in physical spaces. Millennials are becoming the largest segment of the workforce in corporate America. Millennials grew up with the first Facebook accounts in 2004- 2005, and with Twitter coming out in 2009. These social networks very much became big part of these people’s identities.

Companies used to only look at your credentials, for example a candidate’s education history. Now, organizations are starting to look at that candidate’s character, as evidenced through the online record. During Covid, people are spending more time online and there’s ever-increasing data around it.

At the end of the day, employers still need to make an informed decision about who they’re hiring and who they’re bringing on board. It has never been more important to make sure the people that you bring on board are reflective again of those brand values that drive your company forward in a hyper competitive market.

Businessman explaining new plan to team over video call

Q: How has social media screening changed in the remote work environment that we are currently in?

Ken: At Sterling, we’re seeing at least three times the growth in social media screening than we saw prior to Covid. I’m going to attribute a lot to work from home and the dynamic nature of social media screening.

Within our vertical, media tends to be one of the industries where there’s been a big investment, and that’s because obviously if you’re a big media outlet, you have a big concern about the folks that you’re potentially putting on TV and the background that they serve.

With this shift to remote work, social media becomes even more important.

Before Covid, the world wasn’t as focused on remote work. If I was going to go work at Fama, for example, it’s likely that Ben and I at some point would sit down with each other and he would see the signals that I make that are hard to see on video chats. These signals help you to really understand a person’s character as you’re interviewing them, and you learn a lot about them. You can get a sense of the things that they might not be telling the truth about, or things that you know you’re a little bit dark or gray when you’re investigating. With remote work and remote interviewing, the big question is, how do I get to know this person?

The data set that we’re looking at is now changing.

Social media checks give me a window into what I couldn’t see before. It broadens the spectrum that I have on somebody that I’m hiring remotely and likely won’t have the opportunity to sit down with face-to-face.

Q: As organizations go back into the office, is the need for social media screening still going to be there?

Ken: I focused a lot on the fact that maybe you won’t ever see the person, but I think really what this did is just open the eyes to the expansive data that’s out there. We’re now able to broaden our views.It’s essential that as a businessthat you have all the available information at your fingertips to make an informed decision.

Ben: There are so many different factors that have contributed to the rise of social media, outside of remote work. Whether it’s remote work, Fair Chance, or because of the hiring environments that we’re in, the information we are using and not using is so interdependent.

Q: How does social media screening vary across industries?

Ben: Generally, we see social media searches are used in companies that have high revenue per employee and those with customer-facing employees.

Organizations are investing more time and money to try to determine if the person coming in is the right person through a brand and cultural lens. Talking about tech in particular, tech has always been one of the fastest adopting verticals and one of the largest. The tech industry was one of the earliest adopters of our solution.

The entertainment industry, specifically on-air talent and influencers, often runs social media searches. If you Google “Influencer racist tweet”, you’ll see a litany of results from influencers that were brought on to represent a brand, and then their dirty laundry from the past comes out.

Our technology has been a way to retain talent and to be competitive in knowing who you hire and how you hire to make sure the correct person joining your organization.

Ken: We’re seeing a big investment with all of our partners because they’re concerned with the social media background of individuals.

For example, it’s critical that you have an understanding of the individuals that are creating your content. Most of our clients that use social media are in the entertainment and media space.

Are you using social media searches in some way to help uncover that additional data point to build that security? One bad show or one bad event can really take your company from being a top tier business in the entertainment industry to being gone. It’s not just about an individual character. It’s about building your brand and maintaining that brand. Social media screening is one way that you can do your due diligence.

As Ken and Ben discussed, social media screening can help you make more informed decisions about your candidates. These checks can be seamlessly integrated into your hiring process and help protect your brand, your reputation, and your workforce, and ultimately be a stepping stone to building a foundation of trust and safety.

Click here to watch the full interview.

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.