What is Social Media Background Screening and What are its Benefits?


Social media background screening is the new kid on the block, as it were. Traditional methods of background verification are good and play a valuable role in the onboarding process. However, with exponential growth in the usage of social media websites and platforms in recent years, there is a plethora of data on a person’s behavior that can be used (after collecting consent) to mitigate incidents of fraud or negligent hiring and safeguard the reputation and P/L of companies. So, how can social media data be leveraged and to what end? Verifiers can set criteria to look for data and flag any questionable online posts by the candidate and report them back to their prospective employer.


I know what you are thinking- “How can you interpret what the candidate means through their posts?” In reply, I would say that is a very fair question and must be taken seriously. Some comments can be misinterpreted however, there are the rest that are pretty black and white. In the end it is the employer who must make the hiring call. How they interpret the report is entirely up to them and how badly they want the candidate. Verifiers merely provide information for decision support. Social media background screening has a place in the traditional verification process not least because there is a massive supply of skilled talent which makes it impossible to perform several rounds of interview and HR & the management need all the information they can get to make the right call.

What to look for?

Candidates lose their inhibitions and make themselves known through their communications on social media platforms whether it is a more curated and professional one like LinkedIn or more casual one like Facebook. I must first mention that social media background screening is not just a search to catch the candidate on the wrong foot. In fact, it can be a great qualifier. Imagine a situation where the candidate possesses exceptional skills in extra-curricular activities or is a great orator or has a great passion in social service or climate change initiatives however, these are not well articulated in their CV or during the interview, which would have strengthened their application. Employers want well-rounded candidates! Some employers even have an unsaid hiring criterion “Can I see myself having a beer with this candidate?”

Hiring is expensive, time-consuming and can be detrimental to an organization, depending on the seniority of the hire. Managers work with teams and enforce the company culture. What if this person has online evidence stacked against him/her for being “less then the ideal” candidate? Some companies ask the verifiers to look for any proof of the following:

  1. Racism: What if the candidate is a part of some forums where they have made racist comments towards others?
  2. Abusive: Imagine a candidate who has posted very abusive messages in the comments section of a YouTube video!
  3. Sexual Misconduct: A candidate who has been accused on various social media platforms of sexual harassment at the workplace and even has a newspaper or online article saying the same thing about him?
  4. Arms: A candidate who is not shy about flaunting his weapons on social media
  5. Drugs: Any images of the candidate with narcotics or questionable substances

Final Thoughts

Employers are very cognizant of the risks of hiring the wrong candidate and are ever ready to leverage new technologies to mitigate risks. Now, social media background screening is not perfect. It has its own challenges not least the false positives and false negatives. This is something social media screening firms are looking to overcome. Verifiers are hired to safeguard the interests of the employers and go to ‘legal’ lengths to dig out any information that can be useful to the employer for the purpose of hiring.
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