6 Common Misconceptions About Social Media Background Checks

Approximately 80% of employers conduct some type of pre-employment background checks on job candidates. Those reports typically include criminal checks, but many organizations are starting to look at an applicant’s social media too. In fact, CareerBuilder found that the process of using social media when screening job candidates has grown by 500% over the past 10 years.

As more and more companies learn about social media background screening, many questions and preconceived notions start to arise. Is this ethical? Do you hack into accounts? I can make the applicant give me their Facebook password, right? Our client services team fields calls and emails daily regarding these type of questions. We are hoping to clear up some of the common misconceptions about social media background checks below.

Misconception #1: Companies can force candidates to give up their account passwords.

This is not a good idea. In many states it is illegal for an employer to ask an employee (or applicant) for their social media passwords. There are also many states with laws against requiring employees to provide their usernames. Asking for passwords can also be a violation of federal laws.

Misconception #2: Social media reports are an invasion of the candidate’s privacy.

Our goal is to highlight potential workplace safety issues. That includes content pertaining to violence, unlawful activity, demonstrations of intolerance, and sexually explicit material. We only perform searches for pre-employment purposes and do not provide our product to individuals. Therefore, Joe Schmoe cannot call us up and have us run a report on himself, or on anyone else that he knows. Employers must get consent from their job candidates before we will conduct a social media background check for them. That way all applicants are aware of the investigation.

Misconception #3: Social media screening companies hack into people’s accounts.

This is the number one question we receive. We absolutely do not hack into anyone’s profiles or accounts. We only review information that is publicly available. If you have followed our tips about how to protect your privacy on Facebook then you should be be able to rest assured that your content is private. Additionally, many of the more popular social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter also have options to make your pages private to anyone who is not your friend or follower.

Misconception #4: HR departments should do all social media screening in house.

This is incredibly risky. One quick look at an applicant’s Instagram account or any other profile can reveal all kinds of personal information, such as their sexual orientation or religion. This can open your company up to discrimination lawsuits if the candidate does not end up getting the job. On the other hand, a third-party screener such as Social Intelligence will protect your company from seeing what is called protected class information.

Misconception #5: Social media checks only search popular sites like Facebook and Twitter.

We can only speak for our product specifically on this one. Our proprietary software searches the entire web for each candidate. We do not have a list of social media sites that we only look for. Therefore, when you conduct one of our searches on your applicant you are getting a full view of your candidate’s online presence.

Misconception #6: A candidate can’t be hired if negative material is found on their accounts.

We never tell companies what to do with the information that we provide. Whether an organization chooses to move forward with the hiring process for any given applicant is entirely up to them. Our goal is simply to help businesses make better informed hiring decisions.

Have any lingering questions or concerns about social media reports? Call one of our experienced consultants today.


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