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on January 23, 2015 Types of Background Checks Employment Background Screening

Will Your Applicant Pass a Social Media Background Check?


With most of the world's population on the internet1 and an estimated 74% of adults online using social media2, almost everyone has a social media history. We answered the question last year - yes, you can include social media in your background checks. If you do, however, will your applicant pass? And what should you look for?

Social Recruiting

Employers are continually looking for ways to find the best applicants for their company. Just as many recruiters and HR managers will venture into job fairs and networking events, social media networking is steadily climbing as a way to find talent. LinkedIn seems like the obvious go-to for recruiting but Twitter and Facebook follow closely behind3. Hiring managers and recruiters often share new job information via their social and professional networks so a social profile may be the first view of a candidate. A background screening, interview and resume will fill in the gaps but much of the candidate's personality will already be in the mind of the hiring manager.

Social Media Turn-Ons & Turn-Offs

There are obvious reasons an employer would deny employment to someone who is posting nudity or profanity on their social media networks. Hiring managers are also particular about posts or profiles that include:

  • Drinking or drug use
  • Bad grammar/punctuation
  • Sexual content

On the other hand, if a profile includes information about professional organization memberships or volunteer work, employers tend to look favorably at the applicant. Interestingly, recruiters were often neutral about political or religious posts.4 

In general, everyone should exercise caution about what is shared on the internet. Each social network also has privacy options that should be studied carefully. An applicant cleans up his/her resume when looking for a new job. They should do the same with their social media. 

What's an Employer to Do

In 2011, Forbes magazine reported an FTC ruling that social media background screenings were in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Just as any other offense or finding would prompt a hiring manager to not hire an applicant, the same rules apply here. The applicant would still need to know what caused the no-hire and an adverse action letter would still need to be sent. Including a social media screening policy may be a great reason to revisit your overall background screening policy.

Human Resources is turning to the internet to find the best and most qualified candidates for the job. Part of the hiring decision process is getting to know the candidate well. Every applicant and hiring manager must be aware that with social media, what you see may not be what you get. Nevertheless, those late night party photos you shared on Facebook just may be the reason you didn't get a call for an interview.






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Ryan Howard

Vice President, Business Development at VeriFirst, a BYL Company

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