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When You Should Use Social Media Background Checks


When interviewing candidates, you want to learn everything about them before making a hiring decision. Social media background checks can give insight into what a person is really like and how they may act on a day-to-day basis. However, there are risks involved that could open you up to a lawsuit, but there are benefits as well.

A social media background check is exactly how it sounds: looking at candidates’ social media pages to learn about them. They can reveal things that you couldn’t glean from a traditional interview or background check. It’s completely optional to add to your hiring process, but it’s important to know when and how to implement them. Consider the pros and cons before you look into a candidate’s social media.

How Not to Use a Social Media Background Check

There are potential legal risks when it comes to looking at the social media profiles of potential candidates. A candidate can claim they weren’t hired because the employer discriminated against a protected characteristic. Employers cannot consider age, race, religion, medical history or nationality when hiring someone. If you do base hiring decisions off of one of those, then your company can be sued.

Don’t use social media as a way to screen resumes. According to Johnathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris LLP, it is not worth the risk. “If someone doesn’t have the five years’ experience required or if someone doesn’t have the degree you need, why would you even look?” Wait until interviews are completed, candidates will have a harder time claiming they were discriminated because you saw their Facebook.

You should also never ask for social media passwords when interviewing candidates. This is a criminal offense in some states and will also keep candidates from applying with you. “If your potential employer asks you for your social media password, that’s like asking you for a key to your house,” says Segal. “Find a better employer to work for.”

The Benefits of Social Media Background Checks

Checking social media can help you learn more about a candidate and avoid making a bad hire. The line between professional and personal social networking has blurred in recent years. Many people use social media to show off their skills and portfolios, and that’s good when doing skill assessments. But making a good hire isn’t just making sure someone has the right skills.

You also need to make sure a candidate is going to fit in with the company culture. You may see something online that makes you think “This behavior demonstrates that they may not use good judgement.” But be careful with your assumptions. Finding one picture of someone drinking on a Saturday night doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a good employee. Everyone has a life outside of work and many people show that through their posts.

If you see someone sharing or promoting distasteful rhetoric, you can factor that into your hiring decision. It is legal to disqualify applicants whose posts are against societal norms and endorse harmful behavior.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned previously, checking social media is optional, but there are guidelines that you should abide by. If you’re going to check one person, then you must check everyone’s or don’t do it at all. This isn’t used to screen resumes or to find out a person’s race or religion. You must continue to comply with equal opportunity employment laws.

Look for things that stick out as a positive or negative, you’re looking for exceptions. Does this person go out and party frequently, or do they do volunteer in their spare time? Are they passionate about something and could that be implemented in the role you’re hiring for? This can allow you to get a better feel for a candidate than you could in a regular job interview.

Do you have an effective onboarding strategy? Click here to read how it can reduce turnover! If you need help with recruiting, message us or call 501-801-8061.

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