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Social Network Searches Being Used Less for Background Checks

December 20, 2013

While a hot topic in past years has been the use of the internet to help with employee selection through social media background checks, it appears that this trend is fading fast, says Employment Screening ResourcesTop Ten Background Check Trends for 2014.

Why are social media background checks fading as a hiring tool? First, a number of states have passed or are considering laws that prohibit an employer from requiring a consumer social networking password, or to insist on “shoulder surfing,” meaning the applicant goes online and the employer examines a website site over the applicant’s shoulder, says ESR. A current list of social media password privacy legislation in the U.S. is available on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website at http://www.ncsl.org/research/telecommunications-and-information-technology/employer-access-to-social-media-passwords-2013.aspx.

In addition, many applicants are taking much greater precaution to hide their social networking activities behind strong password protections as applicants have become more aware of the risk of employers finding negative information online, ESR says. "Smart applicants are using their cyber identities as marketing tools in their job hunt.  Also, many employers have discovered that searching for relevant material online is like looking for a very small needle in a very large haystack.  In addition, employers are concerned that discovering material online could lead to lawsuits for discrimination if the search reveals such things as age, ethnicity, medical conditions, religious affiliation, or similar information too early in the hiring process," ESR says.

Although some hiring managers may continue looking online for information about job candidate’s as an informal practice, it does not appear that large scale social media searches as a standard part of the hiring process has taken off, according to the report. A 2011 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found only approximately one-quarter (26 percent) of organizations used online search engines to screen job candidates during the hiring process while even fewer organizations (18 percent) used social networking sites, ESR notes. While employers have discovered a treasure trove of information about potential job applicants on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, ‘social media background checks’ have become controversial and can present legal risks that may include Too Much Information (TMI), “computer twins,” “cyber-slamming,” and issues with privacy, credibility, accuracy, and authenticity.

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – offers a complimentary white paper titled Managing the Risks of Using the Internet for Employment Screening Background Checks to minimize the risks of using the Internet for screening candidates. The complimentary whitepaper is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Stay-Updated/Download/.  

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