How You Can Use Social Media for Background Checks

How You Can Use Social Media for Background Checks

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently announced that they will begin collecting social media data on all immigrants entering the country. As an employer, why not hold job applicants to the same standard as the U.S. government? In fact, according to Private Eyes Inc., a blog dedicated to workplace safety, recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 76% of firms currently use or are planning to use social media sites to vet potential candidates.

While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can provide a plethora of valuable information about a candidate’s past behavior and work history, they also have many potential shortcomings. Employers should be mindful of respecting a candidate’s privacy, as social media sites may contain a trove of private information not necessary to vet a candidate, such as a person’s lifestyle and political views.

Employers must also be mindful of potential legal limitations on vetting candidates’ social media accounts. In 2011 the Maryland Department of Corrections requested an applicant provide his social media credentials, username, and password, as part of the application process. An ACLU campaign against the request resulted in the State of Maryland passing the first law prohibiting employers from requesting access to a candidate’s social media credentials, and employers could face litigation and charges of discrimination for violating this law. Illinois followed Maryland’s lead later that same year, and many other states are considering similar legislation.

Given the open nature of the internet, employers should also acknowledge the potential for cases of misplaced identity, or even trolls masquerading as the candidate to slander him or her. Additionally, candidates may hide their identities in the online world by using pseudonyms.

Finally, employers must be mindful of their own actions and reputation on social media. While social media provides unprecedented access to a candidate’s personal life, candidates can also use social media to peer into the world of potential employers. Sites like Glassdoor provide valuable insight to potential candidates, allowing them to view comparable salaries, read about past interview experiences and questions, and read reviews of former and current employees.