Begin by considering that The Federal Trade Commission has determined that social media searches associated with employment are “Consumer Reports” – which places them squarely under the purview of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), whether this is done internally, or conducted by a third party (such as Social61). And there are lots of rules to carefully follow. Either do this right, or use a third-party: this is no time for a “whatever’s fast and easy” attitude.

    In either case:

Start by getting the applicants’ permission – they should sign an ‘Acknowledgement and Consent Form’ authorizing the social media and online background check, just like for credit and criminal background checks (we have all of these docs).

Describe in clear language that the Social Media Background Check will include a search of social networks for relevant information pertaining to their fit with the organization’s culture and their possession of the skills, knowledge and behaviors appropriate to succeed in the job.

Notify applicants about your intent to conduct a Social Media Background Check ahead of time. Remove all possibilities of surprises and expectations of privacy. And yes, this does give the applicant the opportunity to run home and quickly quash unseemly postings.

Later, give a full copy of the report to the applicant, and then give the applicant the opportunity to comment on the report’s accuracy (just as they can with other background checking information). Start by making sure that the report contents are indeed about the person that you are interviewing, and not someone of a similar name. Take this response seriously and continue checking and validating.

There are more details but let’s leave it with that for now!