Should Your Business Screen Employees Using Social Media?

Social media not only is a revolutionary communication tool but also offers several advantages to businesses. Companies can use these platforms to extend their marketing reach to new heights and make meaningful connections with their clientele. On top of this, an increasing number of organizations use it to screen potential job candidates.


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Traditional job interviews can be informative, but they’re limited. Everyone knows you have specific standards, so people may appear more professional than they really are. But on social media, people tend to show their true colors.

You’re not alone if you think social platforms can help you make smarter hires. In 2018, more than 70% of employers used social media for hiring new employees. Whether you’re looking for full-time workers, internship positions, or volunteers, social sites can help you screen more effectively.

These sites offer substantial potential but aren’t always easy to use for hiring. Legal restrictions, privacy issues, and piles of irrelevant data can muddy the waters. If used effectively and appropriately, though, social media can be vital to your hiring process.

Pros and Cons of Social Media Screening

There’s a lot you can gain from social media screening, but it’s not as straightforward a practice as you might think. Employers should weigh the advantages and drawbacks of these platforms before moving forward.

Social media can help you fully understand candidates, especially younger ones, because it’s such a significant part of their lives. Reaching out over social platforms is one of the best ways to engage Millennial recruits, as they use them for virtually everything. The same is true of the tech-native Gen Zs as they begin to enter the workforce.

There are advantages of social media screening other than appealing to younger candidates, too. As their name implies, these sites are full of social interactions, so you can look at how an applicant gets along with other people. You can also see evidence of a person’s useful skills that may not come up in an interview.

Social media screenings don’t just highlight candidates’ desirable traits. People may post things on their profiles that cast doubt over their integrity or work ethic. You can use social media to see if applicants make poor life choices or are intolerant of certain people or situations.

Of course, social media screening has its fair share of drawbacks. Even an experienced hiring manager can have unconscious biases against things like religion or sexual identity that might come up on users’ profiles. People can also lie on social media as easily as they can on a résumé.

What to Look for in Candidates’ Profiles

People’s social media profiles are chock-full of information, which is both an advantage and a potential stumbling block. You stand to learn a lot, but there’s also a lot of irrelevant information to sift through. If you hope to make smart hires through social media, you have to know what to look for in candidates’ profiles.

Potential red flags are obvious things to keep an eye out for. More than one-third of hirers say questionable behavior is what they scan for most on social media. However, you have to be able to distinguish between what’s actually a red flag and what is just misleading.

Without context, a social media post can look incriminating even though the story behind it is perfectly harmless. When looking for potential issues, it may be best to look at candidates’ repeated behavior instead of making judgments off a single post. That said, you should consider how some more notable posts may reflect your company’s image.

As an employer or a hiring manager, one of the best ways to use social media is as a method of verifying a candidate’s application. If an applicant makes an impressive claim on his or her résumé, you can look at the person’s social media accounts to see if he or she is telling the truth. If there’s a discrepancy between the application and the online record of the candidate’s job history, he or she may be lying.

You may want to consider candidates’ social media following. If they have noteworthy influence, and they’re using this positively, they may be a useful marketing or customer support asset. The way they interact with other people can tell you how they’ll be with your clients or their coworkers.

Protecting Candidates’ Rights

When using social media for hiring, you should always keep applicants’ privacy rights in mind. One of the strongest arguments against social media screening is the possibility of equal opportunity law infringement. If you’re not careful, this practice could lead to employment discrimination.

Federal law prevents businesses from making hiring decisions based on protected classes such as race, ancestry, or creed. People often list this information online, and looking up this information can be illegal. Make sure you know your state’s privacy laws, or better yet, enact policies to avoid this information when screening.

If a candidate’s profile is private, chances are you can’t legally ask for access to it. Even if it’s legal in your area, people may see it as a breach of privacy. It’s best to be upfront about using social media as a screening tool so applicants know you might check it before they apply to the job.

To stay within legal and ethical guidelines, have policies in place regarding how you screen candidates. If you use social media, follow specific, written practices about what information you consider and what you don’t. You may even want to outsource the process to companies that specifically deal with social media checks.

The Social Screening Scene

Employers are more commonly using social media for hiring. It can be valuable, but it shouldn’t be your first or only consideration. Rather, see it as a way to bolster your other screening methods instead of using it as your primary source of information. If used carefully, social media can help employers make the most of their hiring process.

Kayla Matthews, a technology journalist and human resources writer, has written for TalentCulture, The Muse, HR Technologist,, and more. For more by Matthews, follow @KaylaEMatthews on Twitter or visit her blog, Productivity Bytes.