Between 70% and 90% of employers in the United States incorporate some form of social media screening before they hire a candidate. Studies have shown that most employers, and more specifically the hiring managers, are simply logging onto their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts and casually browsing the candidate's social media posts. This is not a recommended approach. 

Due to the high probability that hiring managers will see information (religious affiliation, sexual orientation, family status, etc.) that cannot be used in a hiring decision, businesses may consider outsourcing monitoring to a screening firm or another third-party. However, even when using a third party to avoid hiring data compliance issues, organizations need to be cautious when using social media to screen employees.

Here are some guidelines to follow: 

  • Get permission from the candidate prior to doing any screening. This is required based on Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines, which view social media screening as no different than any other background check.
  • Only pull public posts. This one is important. The organization can only view posts which the candidate made publicly.
  • Don’t ask for passwords to their social media accounts or accept friend requests. This can violate many state’s social media privacy laws. Accepting a friend request or even following a candidate creates a conflict of interest.

In screening social media accounts of a candidate, there are many potential red flags for hiring and security personnel to monitor for: 

  • Hate speech: Derogatory, abusive and/or threatening statements toward a specific group of people typically on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation.
  • Insults and bullying: Harmful statements toward an individual about their physical characteristics such as weight, height, looks, intelligence, etc.
  • Narcotics: Statements or images related to drugs and/or drug use.
  • Obscene language: Profanity, cursing, swearing or in general crude or vulgar words and phrases.
  • Threat of violence: Text or images depicting an intent to inflict harm on another person or the individual themselves. 

Beyond the initial pre-hire screen, many employers have adopted a social media monitoring program that essentially does the same as the initial screening on an on-going basis. In addition to the time-consuming nature of a DIY monitoring program, handling social media monitoring internally can create a slew of legal issues and put a company at risk of violating Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protected class information as well as FCRA rules. To avoid these potential legal issues, organizations can outsource this function and/or maintain strict compliance around the use of social media screening internally.

The Great Resignation Era has put many firms behind the eight ball when it comes to hiring. The cost of a bad hire has far more consequences than the monetary cost to bring that person in, have them start work and having to terminate them unexpectedly. It impacts a company’s credibility. 

By focusing on compliance in social media monitoring, which may involve outsourcing the social media monitoring for new hires, companies can remove legal risk, avoid EEOC violations and ensure a better hire in many cases.