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April 12th, 2021 | Sterling

Social Media Checks: Revealing A Person’s True Character

Can Social Media Checks reduce your risk of a bad remote hire?

With an ever-increasing volume of hiring decisions relying on remote interview processes, hiring managers are seeking additional applicant insights to support and inform their decision-making and reduce the risk of a bad remote hire.

In 2020, Sterling experienced a 120% uplift in demand for Social Media Screening, a service which can reveal more about a person’s true character by analysing their publicly available, online information. Our clients recognise the additional value of incorporating a robust and consistent assessment of a candidate’s digital footprint as an integral component of their standard background screening program.

An additional layer of candidate insight

90% of internet users now have a social media account, demonstrating that establishing a personal online presence has become a fundamental feature of everyday life1. This presents a wealth of personally generated information that can reflect an individual’s character, lifestyle, views, and values.

However, when it comes to accessing and utilising an applicant’s online information to inform hiring decisions, it is essential to ensure you proceed in a methodical and compliant way to avoid landing your business in hot water. Uncontrolled social media screening can lead to increased employer liability and risk exposure to possible discrimination and data protection claims.

Key considerations for online searches

Here are a few key things to consider before you research an applicant’s digital footprint:

  • Firstly, you need to know what you are looking for when conducting an online search. A good starting point is to have a clear vision of an ideal employee’s persona which emulates your business’ values, culture, and the industry within which you operate. Ask questions such as what traits does that person possess and what matters most to our business? Next, consider the opposite, undesirable behaviours, and attitudes by asking what would make us think twice about hiring someone? What do we feel are negative or risky behaviours? Once you have a clear view of what you do and do not want from an employee, it’s good to think about how this might differ depending upon a person’s level of seniority or specific role within the business.
  • Define the search parameters in terms of which online sources will be checked, the timeframe to be searched, and the nature of the information. Remember that only publicly available online information should be considered and only content generated by the individual being screened.
  • It is a good idea to have someone other than the hiring manager conduct an online search. HR professionals may be more likely to know what information is appropriate for consideration, so it helps to have clearly defined roles in terms of conducting checks, sense checking the findings, and presenting these to the hiring manager to ensure privacy is not breached and that the risk of employer bias is mitigated.
  • Determine how the results should be presented to the hiring manager to ensure a compliant, nondiscriminatory decision can be reached. Ensure that only relevant information is shared and aspects within the Equality Act 2010, such as ‘protected characteristics’ (which include race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, and pregnancy and maternity) remain private. The output from an online screen should provide sufficient information to make an informed decision, only disclosing relevant findings that could present a risk or threat to your organisation.
  • Finally, if your business has an international workforce, you need to be up to speed on country specific data protection and privacy laws to mitigate the risk of breaching these. Some countries have single or multiple privacy or data protection laws that result in comprehensive coverage while other countries do not have specific data protection and privacy laws but have some coverage in their constitution and other laws. The EU’s GDPR is just one example to take into consideration.

Searching with confidence

As you can tell, conducting in-house social media checks can be a bit of a minefield, so it’s always worth considering the benefits of outsourcing these to a third party who will be able to provide expert guidance to help you formulate a robust and compliant program. Engaging an external partner also mitigates the risk of employer bias and ensures that a consistent and thorough approach is taken.

With a clearly defined, comprehensive online screening strategy that is stringently followed, your business can confidently benefit from the value online searching adds to a background screening program – helping you to develop a safe and secure workforce, whilst protecting your brand’s reputation.

Are social media checks on your organisation’s radar? Get in touch with us today to find out more.

1  Global Social Media Stats, Datareportal Jan 2021.

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.