Social media isn’t going anywhere; it’s only becoming more pervasive. Because people are spending so much time online, social media sites are becoming a valuable resource for identifying risk. As a result, social media screening is becoming a standard component of the best background checks. Organizations need to develop screening policies that balance their need to establish and maintain corporate values and with their need to mitigate risk and remain compliant. Social media screening adds an extra layer of protection.
It’s likely that decision-makers within your organization may have differing opinions about what constitutes a red flag on a social media background check. Regardless, it’s important to start the conversation. Here are a few issues that are cause for alarm that most folks can agree on:
- Anything on the social media site that contradicts information provided on the application or resume. While sometimes social media is not completely clear about what’s going on, if you see something that doesn’t seem to jive, it’s worth asking the question.
- Derogatory posts about current or former employers. Just as you’re forming an opinion about an applicant based on their social media presence, potential clients and customers will form opinions about your company based upon what they see on social media.
- Harassment or threats. Employees that engage in bullying, harassment, or other threatening behaviors pose a significant risk to your company and its reputation. Comments, posts, or photos on social media that demonstrate a pattern (or even an isolated incident) of harassment based on things like sex, religion, race, or political ideology are certainly an opportunity to question whether an applicant represents your business culture.
- Illegal activity. Trouble with the law often shows up on social media and needs to be treated as a significant red flag.
Beyond these basics, decision-makers need to define tolerance levels from an organizational perspective in order to define a policy that can be fairly and consistently applied to all applicants. Some things will differ based on the type of organization in question. For example, an educational institution might be more sensitive to language, and general demeanor on social media than a transportation company might be. It also might be true that certain positions within your organization need to be held to a higher standard. Upper management positions are often under high scrutiny from investors or the media, and therefore people in these positions need to be more careful about their public social media presence than other, less visible employees.
The Bottom Line
Social media screening can be an effective proactive tool to protect corporate culture and mitigate risk. Talk to your screening provider about implementing a social media component to your background check process today.