3 Tips to Minimize Hiring Risk with Social Media Screening

Background screening commonly includes criminal, education, financial, professional certification, employment status, and other areas of a candidate’s history.  Social media is now joining the list of standard background checks.

You don’t have to search very long to find many examples of social media history and behavior affecting employees and their employment status.  Sometimes, people have been fired from positions based on recently discovered social media posts of their past.  Others have lost jobs before they have started based on comments made on social media about their new job, their attitude, or other negative communications.

Why? Because there can be significant risk associated with hiring someone with an online personality far different from their public image.   This risk increases if the candidate’s position is public facing, managerial, or associated with the “brand” of the organization.

Here are three (3) tips you can take to minimize the risks associated with social media screening.

1.  Conduct social media screenings.

Make it a policy to include social media screenings for positions that warrant increased due diligence.   Ensure you have a written policy describing how the screening will be conducted, what will be evaluated, and how the evaluation will influence the hiring decision. 

The screening should be comprehensive and not rely only on publicly available social media material.  The analysis should also consider context and sentiment, not just words or images.

The social media analysis should include common categories of concern and clearly indicate the risk associated with the person’s social media history. Standard types of evaluation include; Alcohol and Drugs, Discrimination, Guns and Violence, Obscenity, and Sexual Harassment.

The screening should consider the need for customized categories and/or specific vocabulary for a more in-depth review of a candidate’s postings of the particular institution, organization or sector.

2. Shield decision makers from claims of bias.

To reduce the opportunity of bias based on social media screening, hire a third party to perform the evaluation.  Ensure decision makers do not view the actual social media posts or images but are presented with a comprehensive report and analysis of the candidate’s social media behavior.

3. Document decisions to demonstrate consistency.

Consistent hiring decisions will lessen the opportunity for claims of bias and discrimination and strengthen the value of social media evaluation.  Build analytical assets like dictionaries and standards that can be used in the evaluation process.

Document how the assets will be used in hiring decisions and record instances when they have been used to reinforce a consistent approach.

You may also want to consider scoring and comparing a candidate’s social media risks against peers, institutional norms, job positions and sectors.

Using these three tips can help you effectively use social media screenings in your hiring process.

Not sure where to begin your social media screening?   Contact Social Media 23.

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