Is doing a social media check on employees a good idea?

pre employment checkIt seems like Social Media is everywhere at the moment and it is a rare employer indeed who hasn’t wondered whether they should be doing social media checks as part of their pre employment screening on their new employees but is this a good idea?

In this post, we’re looking at the whole issue of social media, especially in the context of new hires and highlighting the positives of adding this to your vetting procedure.

Protecting the company reputation

The simple fact is that a poorly worded tweet or something that could be seen as offensive won’t just reflect badly upon the employee concerned especially if they happen to be a member of the C-suite.

Social Media is often seen as an ‘immediate’ medium, in other words, the things posted are ephemeral and last only a short period of time. It’s estimated that a twitter post has a shelf-life of 18 minutes for example.

But the truth is that they are still there sitting in the background waiting for someone to rediscover them.

Imagine then that the company trumpets the appointment of the new CEO only to have Twitter users digging up old posts that show someone with racist views. What would that do to your company’s reputation?

Within minutes the company would be firefighting a very serious situation online and the new executive wouldn’t seem like such an inspired choice after all.

Does their story stack up?

Your potential employee tells you that the career break they had a year ago was spent building a school in a deprived part of Africa.

You go online and find photos and posts showing that they, in fact, spent most of the time drunk in Thailand and oddly there are no photos of the school.

What does this say about their honesty?

Maybe there’s an explanation that makes this all OK but do you want to employ someone who starts off their relationship with their new company by lying?

Will they fit in with the culture?

You can gain a lot by checking out someone’s social media accounts.

The question you need to answer is whether this person will fit in with your company culture – are they a good fit?

If you run a company that is all about the outdoors, being active, taking part and your potential hire is clearly a home bird who never takes part in any sport or outdoor activities then you need to think about whether they will be happy with you.

A serious health warning (or two)

This all sounds great but we do need to insert a heavy-duty health warning here.

First of all, you need to bear in mind the requirements of GDPR. Accessing someone’s social media is a form of data and as such is covered by the regulation so please make sure you are compliant.

Secondly, you need to be aware that social media will include details of someone’s protected characteristics. These include Sexual orientation, Religion, Ethnic background, even someone’s age. Making a decision that includes information about these protected characteristics is strictly forbidden so be aware.

The last thing we’d say is that social media is a world all of its own. We rarely show our true selves online so it’s important that employers treat the information they gather sensitively and add a big dollop of common sense.

Can social media checks help?

Yes, they can.

A good social media check will be comprehensive and will be fully compliant with GDPR and employment rules.

It will also be context-specific, this means that it takes into account the context of any posts rather than simply just the content.

Sometimes though, checking the social media footprint of a senior employee is unavoidable.

If you are in the position of needing to understand a little more about your potential hires but you think that a standard social media check really might not be appropriate what do you do?

There really is no substitute for the hiring manager making a decision for themselves but a good social media check will give you extra information that you can choose to take into account or not as the case may be.

Overall though we’d counsel that it pays to get the best social media check from a professional background checking company who understand the law.

If you’d like more information about our social media checks or any of our pre-employment vetting services then why not drop us a line?