Everything to Know About Social Media Screening

Social media screening is used to evaluate a job candidate’s public online presence

Social media screening is the practice employers use to evaluate a job candidate’s public online presence. By analyzing content across social media platforms, employers aim to gain insights that might not be visible in resumes or interviews, ensuring candidates align with company values and culture.

According to a survey from The Harris Poll, 71% of hiring decision-makers said they agree social media is effective for screening applicants prior to employing them. 78% of employers also believe existing employees should have a work-appropriate social media page.

So, what else is there to know about this commonly used practice? Let’s find out in this blog post.

Exploring the Essentials of Social Media Screening

Social media screening has become an essential tool for modern businesses. With technology at its disposal, it scans and analyzes a candidate’s digital footprint, assessing their public social media content, news posts, and websites.

This helps hiring managers get a more holistic view of the candidates, complementing the traditional pre-employment background checks, and allowing them to make more informed hiring decisions.

Distinction Between Traditional and Social Media Background Checks

Traditional background checks and social media background checks are two sides of the same coin. The former focuses on verifying factual information like employment history and criminal records, while the latter delves into the candidate’s online behavior. Unlike traditional checks, social media background checks require the explicit consent of the individual being examined.

Think of it as the difference between checking someone’s ID and getting a peek into their diary (with their permission, of course).

Scope of Social Media Platforms in Screening

Social media platforms play a pivotal role in the screening process. The typical channels included in pre-employment social media checks are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X (Twitter).

Employers usually review platforms where there’s an intersection of professional and personal content such as LinkedIn and Facebook, often seeking professional references.

However, depending on the specific job and industry, employers may also review additional platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or other more niche social networks.

With 79.6% of managers using LinkedIn for screening, followed by Facebook at 15.8%, and X at 10.8%, these platforms are where professional and personal content overlap, offering a comprehensive view of the candidate.

Niche Networks and Professional Forums

While major platforms are undoubtedly important in the screening process, niche networks and professional forums also add significant value, as they implicitly serve as valuable sources in the background check process.

By reviewing these platforms, employers can get insights into a candidate’s professional contributions and personal successes.

The Mechanics Behind Conducting a Social Media Screen

Behind the scenes of a social media screen, there’s an intricate dance of software, advanced automation, and human analysis. The process starts with software that analyzes public posts, images, and videos from a candidate’s online profiles and other public sites like open forums. Advanced automation forms the base for the initial phase of the screening process, but it’s not all robots and algorithms.

Approximately 75% of employers actively research candidates online, supplementing technology with an essential human perspective.

Automated Searches and Algorithms

Automated social media checks are like an army of robot detectives that can scan thousands of online sources for content related to potential employees. These algorithms perform analysis of user behavior, interactions, and interests based on a variety of signals, including likes, shares, comments, keywords, hashtags, timing, frequency, recency, and user interactions.

AI-powered tools help to identify patterns in online behavior and can improve the accuracy and efficiency of social media screenings, reducing the likelihood of human error and bias.

Human Review and Verification

The role of human analysis in social media screening can’t be understated. It’s essential to assess the credibility of content and users, particularly because automated algorithms sometimes fail to interpret context accurately. Trained analysts review flagged content to confirm that it’s indeed problematic before including it in reports.

Not only does human analysis help address misinformation and offensive content, but it also ensures user safety and compliance with federal, state, and local laws.

Interpreting Social Media Screening Results

Social media screening is used by a lot of employers

Once the social media screening is completed, it’s time to interpret the results. A compliant social media screening process produces a report that shows public content from job-relevant risk categories. By analyzing candidates’ integrity, personality, and values, hiring managers can complement the professional information gleaned from resumes and interviews. However, it’s important for employers to document the information reviewed during the hiring process to defend against potential discrimination allegations.

Identifying Red Flags and Potential Risks

The interpretation of social media screening results involves identifying red flags and potential risks. Recruitment teams often assess candidates’ social media for group affiliations, liked posts, and comments to gauge mental and emotional readiness for job roles. Evidence of illegal activities or a negative attitude toward work displayed on social media are serious concerns that may lead to further investigation.

Identifying these red flags allows employers to avoid hiring individuals who exhibit aggressive behavior or whose behavior could disrupt the workplace or conflict with company values, thus protecting the company’s reputation and culture.

Assessing Cultural Fit and Professionalism

While identifying red flags is crucial, it’s equally important to assess a candidate’s cultural fit and professionalism. Social media screenings may reveal aspects of a candidate’s personal values and behavior that align with the organization’s culture. Assessing a candidate’s posts about workplace activities and after-hours engagements can offer a glimpse into their compatibility with the company’s social and professional environment.

However, the screening process should respect candidates’ integrity and comply with legal standards to avoid bias and protect privacy.

Advantages of Integrating Social Media Screening in Hiring Decisions

Integrating social media screening into the hiring process has its advantages. Tech-enabled social media screening:

  • Standardizes the hiring process.
  • Minimizes contact with protected class information, leading to an objective hiring experience.
  • Offers insights into aspects of a candidate’s life outside of their professional qualifications, such as their personal interests and social interactions.
  • Contributes to well-rounded candidate profiles.

What’s more, it provides employers with peace of mind, a more equitable hiring process, and time-saving measures.

Enhancing Workplace Security and Culture

One of the key advantages of social media screenings is that it enhances workplace security and culture. By examining publicly available online content and avoiding details that denote protected class information, social media screenings help reduce hiring bias. The process can validate the professional strengths of a candidate and ensure they’re a reliable fit for the organization’s culture.

Saving Time and Resources

Another major advantage of social media screenings is that they can save time and resources during the hiring process. Social media screenings can be more rapid than traditional background checks, saving employers valuable time. Employers gain immediate access to a candidate’s public online information through social media screening, which can streamline hiring decisions.

Internal management of social media screenings also contributes to their cost-effectiveness as an alternative to more expensive background checks.

Best Practices for Employers Implementing Social Media Screenings

As with any process, implementing social media screenings effectively and ethically requires adherence to certain practices. Here are some guidelines to follow when creating a social media screening policy:

  1. Define and document a specific policy for social media screening.
  2. Integrate social media screening into the overall background check program.
  3. Reduce liability risks by establishing clear, documented guidelines for access and use of information.
  4. Ensure hiring decisions are made free of discrimination.

By following these practices, employers can effectively and ethically implement social media screenings.

Setting Clear Policies and Criteria

Employees should set clear policies and criteria for social media screenings. The policies should specify:

  • Responsible personnel
  • Screening timing
  • The positions it applies to
  • Scope and sources of the search
  • How results are documented and interpreted

The process should focus on reliable indicators of job performance and be limited to platforms relevant to professional qualifications. Moreover, employers must define the types of content they’re searching for within a social media screen, such as sexually explicit material, to ensure relevance to the job capacity.

Avoiding Bias and Protecting Candidate Privacy

Implementing best practices in social media screening also means avoiding bias and protecting candidate privacy. The screening should be performed carefully to prevent exposure to the candidate’s protected class information and avoid the subsequent risk of bias allegations. Informal in-house social media reviews can lead to procedural inconsistencies and biases, which can compromise candidate privacy.

Therefore, having a policy in place for documenting the information reviewed during the hiring process is crucial to safeguard against accusations of discrimination.

How to Prepare for a Social Media Screening as a Job Seeker

Social media screening enhances workplace security and culture

The most effective method is to conduct an audit of your social media profiles. Go through your Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, X, and TikTok accounts to see what images or videos and information pop up. It would be wise to remove everything controversial and even delete the accounts you no longer use.

The further step is to stop oversharing on social media platforms. Oversharing is in general a risky practice not only for job seekers, but for everyone who spends time online. This includes posting the private information of the company you work(ed) at, your own private details, such as your current location, credit cards, and passwords, leaving negative comments under other people’s posts, and much more. Oversharing makes employers think that the job candidate is divulging too many things online, which could be the reason they’ll have to move forward with other candidates.

The third step is to manage professional and personal profiles separately. You can try setting your personal accounts to private while making professional ones public (on LinkedIn, for example). This way, it’ll be easier to differentiate between personal life and work.

Let’s Sum Up

Social media screening is a powerful tool in the hiring process that offers insights into a candidate’s behavior and values that aren’t evident through traditional background checks.

However, it’s imperative for employers to conduct these screenings in a legal and ethical manner, respecting candidate privacy, and avoiding bias. With clear policies and criteria, a balanced blend of automated algorithms and human analysis, and a focus on job-relevant information, social media screening can significantly enhance the hiring process, leading to well-rounded candidate profiles and informed hiring decisions.

FAQ

What is social media screening?

Social media screening is the process of assessing a job candidate’s online activities and interactions on social media platforms. It helps employers gain insight into a candidate’s digital presence.

How is social media screening different from traditional background checks?

Social media screening differs from traditional background checks because it focuses on the candidate’s online behavior, while traditional checks verify factual information like employment history and criminal records.

What platforms are typically included in social media screenings?

The typical platforms included in social media screenings are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X. These are commonly checked by employers to assess a candidate’s online presence.

What are the advantages of integrating social media screening in hiring decisions?

Integrating social media screening in hiring decisions can enhance workplace security, culture, and lead to more informed hiring decisions by providing insights into a candidate’s personal interests and social interactions. It also saves time and resources during the hiring process.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.