August 8th, 2017 | Sterling

Social Media Screening: The Key to Targeting Your Ideal (And Not So Ideal) Candidates

Almost half of the world’s population actively uses the internet (46%), and by the end of this year, over 30% of the populace will be using social networks on a daily basis. We live in an era where social media is intertwined with our lives from the minute we open our eyes in the morning to when we go to sleep at night. The world is deeply engulfed in social media—at home, in public places and it simply does not end when we walk into work. It is now an integral part of business models and strategies from marketing to recruiting.

From an employer’s point of view, a huge population of potential job candidates share information on their social media networks daily. Of the UK’s total population of 65 million people, 38 million are active social media users with Facebook as the most popular platform for social media users (47%), followed by Twitter (20%), Instagram (14%) and Google Plus (10%).

Social Media Screening

Social media has proven to be an excellent platform for candidates to advocate their professional qualifications. On the flip side, social media activity can also indicate less appealing behaviours for a potential hire. As social media usage increases, with 84% of UK Millennials regularly participating, screening candidates’ social media accounts have become a go-to technique for the vast majority of HR representatives and recruiters.

Social media screening is the process of “capturing any activity on the internet relating to your candidate that is potentially incriminating.”  Vetting social media profiles can provide unique insight into a candidate and may reveal potentially unlawful, violent, racist, intolerant and sexually explicit behaviours that would not show up during the interview process. Sterling created an infographic on Social Media Screening to describe how social media usage affects the hiring process and share best practices to be compliant with data privacy laws.

Benefits of Social Media Screening

The way someone uses social media can tell employers a lot about them:

  • Do they post meaningful content?
  • Do they engage in constructive conversations on social media platforms?
  • Do they conduct themselves in a professional manner?
  • Are they networking with other industry professionals?

These types of favourable behaviours have led 56% of HR representatives and recruiters to attest that some of their best candidates are sourced via social media.

Just like social media screening can help identify stand-out candidates, it can also be a great tool for identifying less qualified candidates. Someone who shares inappropriate pictures implying poor ethics is not a competitive candidate. Likewise, sharing content with grammatical or spelling errors is a red flag. Thus, according to and YouGov, 36% of UK employers have rejected a candidate based on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles.

Whether or not you currently vet candidates using social media screening your candidates is a great use of resources and time and is becoming more important for businesses. Not only can it guard against a bad hire, but it can also benefit exemplary candidates by forming another platform for them to showcase their qualifications for the job.

Developing your Social Media Screening Policy

If you do choose to screen your candidates, keep in mind there are essential guidelines to follow that protect both potential hires’ privacy and mitigate possible risks for your company.

  • Be Compliant with Discrimination and Data Privacy Laws. Our infographic, Social Media Screening, includes best practices for compliance with the UK Data Protection Act and omitting “protected characteristics” content like race, sex and religion from consideration during the hiring process.
  • Identify Potentially Negative Behaviours that can Impact Brand Value and Employee Safety. Pinpoint characteristics to look for while screening—good and bad—that can help streamline the social media screening process and eliminate subjective discretion. Identifying negative behaviours, particularly early on, can save your HR department from a bad hire and a few extra headaches, all the while protecting your company brand and reputation.
  • Screen Everyone the Same. If you social media screen your candidates pre-interview, it is best to screen all of your candidates who reach this stage—not just millennials. People of all generations engage in social media activity, thus, all job roles and industry sectors should be subject to a screen.

Social media usage has only continued to grow over the last ten years and shows no sign of slowing down. As job candidates willingly share content online, it is in employers’ best interests to screen these additional platforms for both positive and negative facts about future hires. Check out our blog for more social media screening information, including blogs about UK Data Protection Laws and Social Media Screening and What Employers Can Learn Via Social Media Screening.

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.