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New tools for social media background checks

Jan 03, 2013 Quinn Thomas

New tools for social media background checks

The amount of data in the public domain is increasing with the growth of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn. Hiring managers need to optimize the ways that data is collected and used to make decisions on potential employees. Examining consumer credit data and court records is currently the standard for most companies that perform background checks, and others may extend checks to include alternative credit information also.

When it comes to social media, public posts can be used to determine character. For instance, a candidate could have a strong resume and interview well, but a quick examination of public social media photos might depict multiple nights of drunken clubbing with many scantily-clad bodies. This type of non-professional posting might raise a red flag to hiring managers, and for potential employees this information is best kept off the internet. When using social media for supplemental background information, best practices should be developed that all employers can use.


New software enables hiring managers to better track potential employees public social media data, alongside a variety of information including credit history, arrest records and marriage certificates. Correlating a variety of information can help managers better determine hiring practices. Consumer credit scores might allow insight into how responsible and organized a potential employee is, but social media might give a fuller picture of who the candidate really is. Software could reveal all network presence, allowing better identity verification.

Best practices
To ensure fairness, employers should only search readily available data on the internet, and managers should never require employees to hand over usernames or passwords or accept a friend request from the company. Data should be used the same way for all applicants, and policies should be established that clearly outlines what can disqualify individuals.

A written notice should be issued as to how and why the information is being used, and managers should be trained as to best practices. It is also often best to have a social media officer who should have a separate function from hiring managers. Data obtained should be used consistently, with care that only applicable public information is considered. Companies should consider possible negative effects of what current and potential employees post on social media sites, which could reveal a non-professional demeanor and ultimately reflect badly on the company.