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Is Social Media the New Background Check?

We all know social media to be an excellent way for people to share and receive information in a casual manner, but what about those that use social media in the professional world? More specifically, how reliable is social media in terms of conducting background checks? We will look over some pros and cons of using social media as a form of background screening to help make a more informed decision on how to conduct a background check. 

Pros

Character Background Check: websites like Twitter and Facebook give people the ability to share a plethora of ideas and information, both from themselves and other social media users. Uploading and sharing photos, videos and written posts are some of the main components when it comes to social media use. Performing a background check on these areas can be helpful in seeing if a potential candidate would be a good fit with your company’s mission statement and professional goals. Another important aspect to consider is to make sure that there are no photos or videos that show a potential candidate performing or taking part in any illegal acts.   

Work History Check: social media outlets are not only useful for sharing personal information, they have also become useful for displaying one’s professional image. While Facebook was one of the originators of being able to share a professional profile, LinkedIn has stepped in as being one of the most important websites for sharing and creating professional content. If a candidate provides a link to their LinkedIn profile, it is useful to check if the work history on their LinkedIn lines up with the work history on their hard-copy resume. 

Reference Check: another useful aspect of social media is using it as form of checking references. When phone numbers and/or emails provided on a resume hasn’t worked in terms of contacting references, another avenue worth looking at is reaching out through social media. As stated before, LinkedIn is an excellent outlet for professionals to show their work background. This should be the first place you look to for ways to contact a reference via social media.  

Cons

Inaccuracies: just as social media can be a useful tool for ensuring that a candidate’s resume matches up with their professional online profile, it can also be a weapon against you to promote an inaccurate work history. If a person is willing to lie about their work history on a hard-copy resume, what would stop that person from creating the same lie on a social media profile? This is where we see a limitation of using social media as the only form of pre-employment screening. If a person uses all aspects of their social media presence to create falsehoods of their professional career, it would require a classic-style background screening to check in with all listed companies to confirm a candidate’s former work history. 

Lack of Information: as stated before, social media websites are amazing in their ability to allow users to share as much personal information as they prefer. What not to forget though, is this means users also have the right to withhold as much information as they please. With that in mind, it is unlikely that you will come across a criminal history on a person’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile. This is another important aspect where a conventional professional background check will come in handy. A professional screening is your best choice for improving the potential findings of a criminal history on a potential candidate.  

Legal Complications: While the idea of conducting a background check through social media seems simple enough, a lack of general knowledge of background checks can lead your company down an aggravating legal situation. Steve Friedlander, a partner in the Employment Group for the law firm Cooley L.L.P. in San Francisco, suggests that companies’ HR departments should implement a social media policy to promote and conduct equality and fairness on all social media searches to prevent legal issues. If you are conducting background checks in-house, make sure that your HR department is up to date and compliant on all policies regarding social media as a form of pre-employment screening. If you are outsourcing your screenings, it is just as important to confirm that the background checking vendor is compliant and knowledgeable of these policies as well. 

Conclusion: 

While there are some unique perks that come from using social media as a form of background screening, it would be unwise to rely on it as the sole method for conducting background checks. From the potential inaccuracies, to the legal complications that come from background checks in general, social media should only be considered as part of the equation of an all-around background screening rather than the entirety.  

Here at Sentinel Background Checks, we pride ourselves in our ability to conduct comprehensive pre-employment background screenings. With all of our experience and industry credentials, including a NAPBS accreditation, we guarantee a safe and exceptional background check for all your future hires. Check us out at sbchecks.com to learn more.