The Need for Social Media Screening

Thursday, 19 October 2017

| Guest Post
The actions of individual employees no longer reflect solely on themselves. A major corporation can find itself under serious scrutiny for the off-job actions of an employee who does not align with the publicized values of the company. Some employee behaviours may not become apparent to an employer through the traditional means of conducting background checks into criminal histories and credit reports. However, the proliferation of social media means that the public often has access to plenty of information about a company's employee and his or her beliefs and values. The way that employees express themselves on social media can leave a serious stain on the reputation of their employer and should be considered before any hiring decisions are made. It only takes one scandal involving an individual employee concerning social media to destroy years of goodwill that a company has worked so hard to establish.

After a company has defined its values and decided what kind of behaviour it will not tolerate from employees, a concerted effort must be made to examine the public online content posted by potential hires. This should be done in a systemic way to ensure that no red flags are missed and that all potential employees are treated equally. If you engage in any discriminatory practices during your social media screening of potential or current employees, you could open yourself up to expensive and time-consuming employment litigation.

One of the best ways to ensure that your
social media background checks are conducted in a thorough and legal way is to engage a third party vendor to complete the task. This puts some distance between your HR department and the candidate at issue. It also ensures that there is enough focus dedicated to all of the many platforms through which a potential or current employee may interact. It is no longer sufficient for an HR manager to simply search an applicant's name in a Facebook search bar. There may be inflammatory content posted by that applicant that you would never come across because you simply are not aware of the most effective ways to look. Also, you could spend costly resources on screening the social media backgrounds of employees who have not yet progressed far in the interview process.

Social media checks are important even if you are only hiring independent contractors or on-demand employees, such as a driver for Uber. These people have just as much interaction with your customers as a full-time employee and have the potential to cause the same amount of damage to your company's name if not chosen appropriately. You should set universal guidelines for the types of employees who will be subjected to social media screenings and make clear to employees and applicants that they could be screened at any time during their employment. You may even want to consider having employees or applicants sign a waiver to indicate that they are aware of your company's policies on social media background checks.

One company that has been heralded as implementing a comprehensive and legal method for screening potential employees is Fama. The breadth and depth of this company makes their services much more affordable and accessible to clients of all sizes. A quick look at the resources they command reinforces that individual HR departments are likely out of their wheelhouse when it comes to successfully screening social media backgrounds of potential and current hires.



Photo credit: Perzonseo via photopin (license)

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