If you are in the HR industry, chances are you have used social media background checks somewhere along the line in your hiring, or know of someone who has. As the market becomes more flooded with talent, it is inevitable that you must constantly evolve and adapt to find the best candidates for open positions. Besides the benefit of maximizing your visibility and marketing of open positions online, social media has become a second nature when it comes to looking someone up in general. If you hear someone’s name, how great they are at what they do, etc., you probably Google their name, and are immediately shuttled off to multiple social media profiles.

When you use social media in this fashion as a recruiting effort, it’s fine but when you use it as part of the background screening process, you immediately risk potential hiring discrimination issues. It’s a double edged sword we all face, but the practice isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

With that being said, there are steps you can take as an organization to reduce the risks, and use social media to your advantage.

1. Define how social media fits into your screening program

The first step should be to define all the areas of your background screening program. Should you decide you will be using social media as part of your screening process, you need to document exactly how you will be doing so in your employee background screening policy. Adding a policy specific to how you will be using social media in the overall background screening program will help lower your overall liability risks by having a procedure documented in place.

2. Create a social media search checklist and follow it.

Once you document the policy, create a checklist of searches to be conducted for every candidate being considered.  Keeping the searches consistent reduces room for interpretation down the road should any legal issues arise.

3. Train all employees running social media searches.

Train all hiring managers in the best practices and what they can and not consider applicable while making hiring decisions. Obviously, any information gleaned from a social media profile can be interpreted differently and hiring managers will see what they see, but they must understand that certain areas of information must not be taken into account. It’s a difficult learning curve, but a necessary one. Once everyone is trained and the policy is signed off on internally, make sure you continue to keep these same managers educated on changes in the policy as you move forward.

4. Document problems, and forward them to all decision makers.

If the person running the searches spots something in a social media profile that they believe should prevent employment for one reason or another, have them document that specific information in clear detail, and forward to all decision makers in the hiring process for review.

5. Don’t ask job candidates for social media passwords

Don’t ever ask candidates for passwords. Besides giving your company an extremely unattractive workplace culture, this practice is already illegal in many states, and many, many other states are pushing forward similar legislation. This link will show all such existing and upcoming legistlation.

6. Stay on top legislation concerning social media in background screening.

Stay on top of legislative and regulatory changes in regards to social media in the background screening process. The more commonplace the practice becomes the more State and Federal agencies will be putting laws in place to protect employees from abuse in the practice.

7. Follow standard FCRA procedures when conducting social media searches

Make sure you are following FCRA procedures when implementing your social media background screening, and obtaining written permission from candidates prior to running any searches, and supply them with advance adverse action notices.

 Let us know in the comments below what other steps you have taken, or are planing to take while implementing social media into your existing or new background screening program.

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