Social Media Searches Save Employers From Ugly Surprises

You thought the applicant knocked it out of the park with his resume and answers to your interview questions. Do you make the offer?

Not so fast. Have you fully checked out the real person behind the resume and interview answers? In addition to reference checks, ninety percent of employers now use social media to evaluate job candidates.1 According to Harvard Business Review, Fifty-four percent of employers reject applicants after finding negative information on social media.2

 If you don’t believe you need to check social media, remember the candidate that appeared to be a shoo-in for a Board of Regents appointment until her twitter against Senator Lisa Murkowski, “You posturing with a parade of rape victims is doing nothing relevant. Get your sh-t together,” torpedoed her candidacy.3

How job candidates come across on public social sites offers employers an easily accessible, no cost opportunity to look behind the curtain applicants hide behind when they offer carefully curated portraits of themselves in the hiring process. Social media posts reveal whether your candidate can present herself professionally; discrepancies with her resume or application; whether she’s viciously bad-mouthed past employers and even her involvement in illegal activities.

According to The Background Check Company’s Bryce Froberg, “Doing a social media search is a great way to better evaluate how a prospective hire might fit in with your company’s culture. We provide our client employers convincing facts showing the employees they almost hired made racially insensitive comments, posted disparaging comments about co-workers and/or supervisors, or dealt poorly with adverse developments.” Former private investigator Sean Eichrodt echoes this cultural-fit benefit, noting that the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigations searched social media after January 6th, 2021, to reinvestigate government employees that might have ties with extremist groups.

Do you dread the time searching social media might take? Remember —Avoiding a bad hire is one hundred times easier than ridding your company of a problem employee. Here are some of the posts Froberg offers as representative of what his team has uncovered for his clients through a social media search. “My work sucks. The people I work with are stupid idiots.” “A——s never even called me back. Company sucked anyway.” “My boss is a jew and I hate jews.” “Why does my b—- boss keep running her mouth about crap she knows nothing about.”

Despite these benefits social media searches provide, vetting job candidates on social media opens Pandora’s Box. You learn information that federal and state laws don’t allow you to consider, such as the applicant’s race, ethnicity, family or pregnancy status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age, medical conditions, and illegal drug use. Further, if your applicant has a common name, you may find posts authored by someone other than your candidate, leading you to assess the wrong individual.

You can manage these risks by making social media vetting part of the reference and background check process and by focusing on job-related characteristics, such as verification of work history, education and credentials, and other criteria important to the position and ignoring anything related to protected categories. If a post showing questionable judgment leads you to make a no-hire decision, make a screen shot of the post along with the URL.

Alternatively, you can turn the process over to a background screening firm. Reputable search companies also ensure you’ll only view information you’re legally permitted to see. They’ll also follow protocols to ensure they only report to you information about the applicant, and not someone else who has the same name.

Finally, when you select a screening firm, make sure they adhere to Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements. This includes obtaining the applicant’s written consent and providing specific communications to the candidate and an opportunity to dispute the accuracy of the information uncovered such the search result in a no-hire decision.

The bottom line—if you don’t yet incorporate social media searches into your vetting process, you open your organization up to a potentially nasty surprise.   


1 https://smallbiztrends.com/2020/05/social-media-screening.html#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20new%20survey,inappropriate%20content%20on%20social%20media.

2 https://hbr.org/2021/09/stop-screening-job-candidates-social-media

3 https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/education/2019/01/31/dunleavy-appointee-to-ua-board-of-regents-withdraws-name-from-consideration/

If you found this post valuable, you may find other useful hiring/recruiting strategies in Managing for Accountability: A Business Leader’s Toolbox, chapter 3: The Tools You Need to Attract Quality Applicants and Screen for Accountability (Business Experts Press, 2021), https://bit.ly/3CTFTKV

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3 thoughts on “Social Media Searches Save Employers From Ugly Surprises

  1. Lynne,
    Timely and useful info, but I think you neatly side stepped a big issue…

    Employers need people who have critical thinking skills and demonstrate an understanding of community and cooperation…

    But more generally employers are probably looking for employees who think like they do.

    In my book… I want people who can deal with issues and think through challenges and develop sound plans and action. Anyone posting to promote the Big Lie, use of worm medicine, Qnon….. are simply unemployable as far as I’m concerned. They have demonstrate either a lack of ability to think independently by following a crowd they are in, or an inability to process information and reach reasonable conclusions, or like to trade and share conspiracy ideas, or just don’t care much about how their actions impact others.

    Who would want anyone like that part of their company?

    Perhaps someone with a view opposite of mine on current affairs would feel just as strongly about hiring someone who supported vaccines, Biden etc… and come up with the same type of arguments why the person would not be employable…

    My challenge… I’ve just been handed a company to operate that uses the services of one of those guys who is frequent poster of content I disagree with… he is very talented at what he does. It’s conundrum for me.

  2. The old saying “Don’t marry Your Investments” may be somewhat applicable. Letting emotions affect buying or selling investments
    often has dire consequences.

    These days, good service is hard to find; “very talented service” even harder.

    If the individual belonged to a religion that was 180 degrees of Yours, would You feel negatively towards him? If the individual’s opinions aren’t part of his “service”, I personally would continue working with him. If, down the road, he starts “preaching” to Your employees or customers, a private conversation would obviously be necessary.

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