DIY approach to social media candidate screening ‘risky’

May 20th, 2021

As social media usage continues to pick up following a spike during the pandemic and employers become increasingly reliant upon these platforms to engage with candidates, Sterling has warned of the risks of a DIY approach to social media screening.

The background screening and identity services firm saw demand for social media checks increase by 120% over the course of 2020, as the vetting of candidate profiles online was seen as a valuable addition to traditional screening. While many hiring firms rely on screening experts such as Sterling, it was acknowledged during a recent online event in partnership with AI-powered technology services company, Fama Technologies Inc, that other businesses may be taking a DIY approach, posing significant risk to their business, staff and customers.

Tim Stokes, Head of Sales, EMEA, at Sterling explained:

“Social media usage surged during the pandemic as people looked to fill a ‘social void’ as in-person restrictions were put in place, so it’s perhaps no surprise that, in line with this spike in personal use, we’ve seen more employers using these online platforms as vetting tools. However, there are significant risks associated with social media screening if it’s not implemented compliantly, and a do-it-yourself approach could expose an employer to challenges of discrimination.”

“It’s important to consider that social media screening should only be used to identify behaviours that are portrayed online that could be cause for concern for the business or the job role specifically. It could include anything that may be derogatory, bigoted, indicate violent behaviour or obvious discrimination, for example. It should not be used to identify particular characteristics of an individual that wouldn’t necessarily be screened in a ‘standard’ vetting process. If you take a DIY approach and simply scan a social media platform to look at an applicant’s profile and activity, you may not know what to look for, you may end up with an incomplete or inaccurate picture, and you run the risk of being influenced by unconscious biases. This could lead to making bad decisions and even being challenged by a candidate that a decision not to hire has been made based on a protected characteristic. That’s where professional social media screening experts and tools can remove the risks for employers.”

“Social media screening isn’t new, but companies are more confident now than they were just a few years ago when it was arguably in its infancy. But that confidence shouldn’t translate into complacency and the view that a DIY approach can work. This can be incredibly risky, especially where firms are perhaps relying on one person’s viewpoint. In order to compliantly screen an applicant online you need to ensure that you’re only flagging information from an individual’s social media profile that is relevant to their job. A human can’t filter that out, but tech and AI can.”


About Sterling
Sterling—a leading provider of background and identity services—offers a foundation of trust and safety that spans across industries, professions, and borders. Our technology-powered services help organisations create great environments for their workers, partners, and customers. With office locations around the world, Sterling conducts more than 75 million searches annually. Visit Sterling online at

Media Contact: Jamie Serino | 001.646.435.2263

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.

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