Social media screening is becoming part of the mainstream background check process, similar to criminal records, financial history, and credentials. As evidence of how mainstream it has become CareersBuilders.com reported that 70% of employers use social media for candidate research.
If you are considering using your staff (HR and recruiting professionals) to perform social media screening, there are numerous risks. Not only can your company be questioned about bias, but this raises concerns of having your screening requirements met with the appropriate time and cost.
Due to these risks, consider outsourcing your screening to a reputable social media screening firm. When selecting a company to provide social media screening services, consider these five questions.
Does the provider reduce the appearance of bias?
Reviewing a candidate’s social media posts could lead to subjective interpretation. As the saying goes, “you can’t un-see a Facebook post.” The subjectivity could be perceived as bias, leading to legal challenges by candidates dropped from consideration based on their social media activity.
To prevent the appearance of bias, consider outsourcing your screening to a firm that can provide an objective review.
Objectivity can be demonstrated with software-oriented reviews of social media posts and images, scoring versus flagging offensive material, and offering a comparison to others in similar roles or with staff currently within the organization.
Does the provider provide a consistent analysis?
Inconsistent screening can lead to inconsistent results, like overlooked material or improperly weighted calculations.
Without defined review processes, scoring methods, and consistent reporting, one candidate may not be reviewed the same way as another. This reduces the value of social media reviews.
To prevent inconsistency, select a social media screening service provider that has defined processes, set specific categories for screening, scoring, and consistent presentation of findings. Only then can a candidate’s social media risk be consistently compared to others.
Is the provider’s analysis thorough?
Manual review of a candidate’s social media background requires effort, dedicated time, and a systematic approach. Because social media usage is now into its second decade, the information to be reviewed is substantial.
A thorough review will include not only the public postings of a candidate but also the posts and content shielded from public view. Excluding posts and content from social media screenings introduces risk that can be mitigated with a permission-based screening that allows all social media activity to be included.
Besides including all social media activity, the screening should also analyze the activity in the context to the most widely used social media risk categories:
- Derogatory or threatening comments toward fellow employees, clients and other people,
- Sexual activity,
- Illegal or illicit activity (i.e., drug paraphernalia, underage alcohol use dangerous alcohol consumption, etc.),
- Violence or actions that could endanger the well-being of an individual,
- Negative comments about the organization or employees.
While screening software is a great tool for reducing the time and bias of reviewing the totality of a candidate’s social media profiles, make sure the screening service has a human analyst that reviews the final report and score for accuracy of posts that are deemed inappropriate.
Select a company that offers permission-based screenings to ensure you receive a thorough and comprehensive review of the candidate’s social media behavior.
Can the provider demonstrate compliance?
The Federal Trade Commission (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2011/06/fair-credit-reporting-act-social-media-what-businesses) guides background screening of all types, including social media.
The FTC directs social media screening providers and companies that perform their own social media background screenings to have a “well-defined and explicit social media screening policy that is compliant with discrimination and data privacy laws.”
The FTC also directs that “companies providing reports to employers and employers using reports must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).”
Select a company for social media screening that complies with all state and federal laws, including the FCRA.
Does the provider reduce the cost of screening?
To manually produce your own bias-free, consistent, thorough, and compliant social media screening will require a great deal of time and effort. Depending on the social media history of the candidate, the time and effort to manually find, categorize, and objectively review can be enormous.
Because social media background screening is subjective, i.e., “is this post offensive?” rather than objective, i.e., “Does this person have a social media profile?” the cost can be expensive and unpredictable.
To eliminate the unknown time and effort (cost) of performing the review, consider outsourcing the task.
Select a social media screening company that provides a price schedule of services. This will provide you with a known and consistent cost.
The decision to outsource your social media screening or continue to perform the screening internally can be more complicated than it appears. Using these five questions will help you organize your selection criteria and evaluate prospective companies.
Do you need help in outsourcing your social media screening?