Pros and cons of social media background checks for employers

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After several rounds of interview sessions, you have finally shortlisted potential candidates for new hires. You would probably conduct the usual background checks on them by calling their referees, or send an email to their ex-employers to verify on their previous employment. The next step you might even be tempted to do is, to conduct background checks on these candidates on their social media profiles.

In a world where so much information can be found online for free, it’s no surprise that HR recruiters today are turning to social media platforms to check on their candidates’ background before making any hiring decisions. However, like all methods of screening, there are pros and cons on conducting social media background checks:

Advantages

1. Eliminating discrepancies

Social media background checks are good to confirm the information that you can find in a candidate’s resume. For example, some social media sites allow users to include background information on the user’s occupation and work history. You can compare to see if there are any discrepancies in the job history that is written on the candidate’s resume.

A candidate may also claim to be a subject matter expert in a specific subject in his or her resume, or have participated in volunteering efforts on a particular date. Given that these initiatives are considered good publicity for the candidate, chances are that these information would be made publicly available online. A quick check on Google would reveal the truth on these claims.

2. Cultural fit

People tend to be more open and talkative on social media platforms therefore HR recruiters can potentially see a different side of the candidate, assuming that all these information are made public. From here, HR recruiters can roughly evaluate to see if the candidate has good communication skills or possess the right cultural fit for the workforce through the candidate’s likes and dislikes.

There are many instances where you can see people writing thoughtful opinion-piece or constructive comments that can demonstrate some of the work values that you seek. In addition, social media sites can also reveal whether the candidate is very much involved in community service or not.

Disadvantages

1. Legal risks

While your intentions on checking the candidate on Google may be innocent and entirely professional, bear in mind that you could be exposed to potential legal risks in terms of privacy and human rights should your background screening methods be used against you.

The legal risks may derive from the public information that you gathered about the candidate. For example, an employer can be sued for discrimination or bias judgement due to a variety of sensitive characteristics that the candidate may later claim to be the reason he or she was not hired such as age, gender, race, religion, medical condition, nationality or even by their looks.

2. Privacy settings

Most social media sites allow users to adjust the privacy settings of their profiles. Smart candidates are more careful with what they post online. This may be a good sign of professionalism and discipline but it does not help HR recruiters to achieve the objective of truly knowing the candidate’s personality.

With the ability to adjust their privacy settings, candidates can easily curate a social media profile that is meant to work at their advantage. HR recruiters have no choice but to accept what can be seen publicly at face value. Bear in mind that the action of acquiring login information or sending a friend’s request with the purpose of accessing to the candidate’s profile can be deemed as a violation of privacy.
Ultimately there are some values in conducting social media background checks on your candidate before making your hiring decision. However, HR recruiters must always be mindful to tread carefully to avoid getting tangled up with the potential legal risks that are lurking along with this online screening method.