First of all, what’s the controversy?
Con: Checks Are Dangerous
Experts against doing social media background checks say that they are dangerous, for several reasons:
- In doing these checks, you’re bound to find out information about applicants that you don’t want, such as race, religion, age, etc. Even though it’s obtained innocently, that information could be used against you if you don’t hire the person. He or she can always say, you didn’t hire me because of my race, or because of my disability, or because of my family responsibilities.
- In addition, there’s the danger of making a decision based on false information, either due to confusion of names, or purposeful placement of malicious information.
- Finally, there’s also some risk related to invasion of privacy and misuse of websites, especially if you access information with an assumed name or under false pretenses.
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Pro: Part of Due Diligence
However, the other side says, you must do such checks, because that’s how you’ll find out about the “real person.” Advocates of this approach say it’s now part of due diligence to do a social media background check, and if you fail to do it, events down the line could cause you to be accused of negligent hiring. For example, say a person turns violent and injures other employees, and a pre-hire Google search would have uncovered a history of violence.
How Widespread Are the Problems?
We’d like to find out just what people in the field are doing, and what, if any problems they’ve had. Please send me a short email (email@example.com or use the “Share Your Comments” at the bottom of the page) to let me know:
- Do you do social media background checks?
- Have you experienced any difficulties as a result of doing them OR not doing them?
We’ll share the results in a future issue.
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So, now to the question of what you should do.
Most experts recommend that if you do such checks, you should at least protect yourself to some degree;
- First of all, there are firms, like socialintelligence.com, for example, that will perform a check for you, “redact” the information you wouldn’t want, such as race or religion, and deliver to you just the information pertinent to the candidate’s ability to do the job.
- If you prefer to check in-house, you can achieve nearly the same protection by insuring that someone outside of the direct line of hire, like an HR staffer, does the check. Again, that person would pass on only acceptable pertinent information.
- You can do checks only for the top candidates, thus reducing somewhat your risk of a lawsuit.
- You can get a release from the applicant.
And here are a few things NOT to do:
- Don’t gain entrance to a site (like Facebook, for example) under false pretenses.
- Don’t assume that everything you see online is true.
Again, please let me know if you are doing social media background checks, and what, if any, problems you’ve had as a result.
Editor, Compensation Daily Advisor