In the Era of Social Media, Do We Still Need Background Checks?

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Should you still do a background check even if you Google a candidate and you don't find anything incriminating? The answer might be yes.

"I already did a background check - I searched my applicant on Google and Facebook, he seems pretty good." 

Unfortunately, I hear this all the time. Exploring the social media presence of a job candidate can be an important part of the hiring process.

After all, the visible, online activities of company employees can and often does have a considerable impact on business reputations.

When it comes to protecting the interests of your organization, however, this research on its own is not enough, especially when it's self-managed. Following is everything you need to know about social media searches on an applicant vs. a traditional background check along with the top reasons why these efforts should always be handled by professionals.

Related Article: Hiring the Hero: 9 Traits to Look For in Successful Candidates

Visiting the social profiles of job applicants is a quick way to know more about their online activities, but it won't reveal any real, valuable information for protecting your company. With these searches, you can find out whether a prospective employee uses coarse language online, posts racy photos, maintains an unsavory audience or regularly comments on or supports controversial subjects.

What you won't know, however, is whether or not this person has a history of violent, aggressive behavior, if criminal charges have been levied in the past, if the applicant has a horrible work ethic or attendance and if the applicant is consistently and chronically bad at managing personal debt and business relationships. These are the factors that matter most to your business and they aren't things that you can learn more about with any degree of certainty if your screening efforts are solely reliant upon doing a social media search online.

Another critical factor that gets overlooked when companies search social media or online search engines to perform any type of background checking on their own is that free information isn't always reliable.

There are fake social media profiles, false information and other unverified information on the web. A lot can get overlooked and there is also the high risk of collecting information on parties with similar names, birth date, cities of residence or other similar features that can lead to misidentification.

At best, the results of these efforts can be misleading or inconclusive and at worst, they can be downright disastrous.

Avoid The Risks Of Discrimination Claims

Before employers go poking around on the Internet to justify their hiring and firing decisions, it is important for companies to consider the risks associated with these efforts. Potential candidates and employees alike can file discrimination claims based upon searches like these given the ambiguous privacy laws concerning online content and the availability of typically protected characteristics.

While resumes, job applications and other pre-hiring documents do not include factors such as religion, race or age, online social networking profiles often do, which can call any decision made as the result of having viewed these profiles into legal question. The best way to avoid discrimination claims resulting from your employment decisions is to place all background screening into the hands of professionals.

While these third-parties can compile comprehensive reports on your behalf and based on a broad range of search parameters, they do not disclose protected information or put your company at risk for legal action.

Ultimately, if you want to know more about the social networking activities of a prospective employee, the best and safest way to collect this information is by having a licensed third-party do the necessary research for you.

The Importance Of Criminal Background Checks When Screening Job Candidates

A comprehensive and professionally rendered background investigation will include a complete check of the applicant's criminal history based on all former addresses and states of residence. This is one of the most important elements of your screening efforts as it will reveal recorded evidence of violent and unethical behaviors and characteristics that may not be suitable for preserving the safety and sanity of you workplace.

You'll find out whether people have been convicted of crimes, when and where they served their sentences and more. If information pertaining to a person's criminal history is not readily disclosed, this is often the only way that employers can find out about past charges.

Related Article: Hiring Your First Employees: How to Go From Your Own Boss to The Boss

Learn More About The Work and Financial Habits of Your Applicants

Depending upon the nature of your company, it's services and the position that you want to fill, credit checks and employment verification can also be key to protecting your best interests.

Applicants with massive amounts of unmanaged and unpaid debt and countless credit inquiries, may not be the best people for a job that entails managing your company’s funds.

Having shown poor money management skills in their personal lives, these individuals are unlikely to have the determination, drive and knowledge to manage your business matters with greater success. This is one of the top reasons why self-managed, social media investigations are never sufficient for protecting businesses.

When most people interact with friends, family and associates via social networking sites, they only project the images that they want others to see. Professional background reporting, however, digs deeper and shows you who people really are and what sort of actions these individuals are most likely to take.  Professional employment verifications can reveal the attendance and work habits of an applicant that will never be shown or self-reported on social media.  When was the last time that you saw someone admit on Facebook that they were fired for poor performance or attendance?

Customize Your Pre-Employment Screening Report To Suit The Needs Of Your Business

Although professional background checking services always conform to legal guidelines, especially those pertaining to social networking searches, these are actually some of the most flexible and adaptable services that companies have at their disposal. You can streamline the reporting process to meet the unique needs of your company and the position you want to fill. In fact, there is always an impressive array of affordable packages that companies can choose from, including reporting processes with expedited delivery times.

Related Article: People Are Talking, Are You Listening? The Importance of Social Media Monitoring

If you've been using free, online tools to conduct pre-employment screening on job candidates, it is important to consider the long-term legal and financial ramifications of doing so. Using unauthorized and self-managed social media searches for your hiring and firing decisions can open the door to discrimination claims.

Efforts like these are also guaranteed to fall short in protecting your business from unethical parties, applicants with extensive criminal histories and those who are incapable of successfully managing their own financial profiles. It is best to outsource the investigations of your applicants to third party professional companies who make it their business to remain mindful and compliant of all hiring laws and regulations.

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