The Use of Social Media Background Checks

Social MediaMany companies in the U.S are utilizing the process of searching potential candidate’s social media for hiring purposes. Many individual’s social media profiles can be read by the public depending on their privacy settings, which can make it easily accessible to have their information as well as their personal activities seen. This practice is also a free source of information.

With companies such as Social Intelligence, everything a prospective employee has commented on or has done in the past seven years is easily seen by the decision makers who determine if they are hired, or not.

But a word of caution to HR professionals…Some information obtained from an individual’s social media background check cannot be used when making a hiring decision such as:

  • age
  • religion
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • disability status
  • national origin

Though this process might seem to be a good idea to human resource professionals, the legal consequences of using social media for background checks must be completely understood. Some of the information found on a candidate’s social media site has been used to disqualify someone from getting that job, promotion or to even to fire an employee, can lead to discrimination lawsuits.

Even though this process is permitted in many workplaces as a regular routine, changes in the Federal law have made the request for login information illegal in many cases. For instance, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act states that violation of the terms of service of a website can be considered to be a federal crime. Because of this practice, many social media websites have added clauses in regards to a request for login information to their terms of service.

Like any other background check such as a criminal or credit check, a job applicant must approve the use of a social media background screening.

According to The Washington Post, many individuals under the age of 30 years old are not even making it to the interview phase for open positions because employers of all sizes are checking possible candidates social media.