Social Media usage by employers is hardly new – recruiters, for example, have been plying Linked-In and other online venues for years in search of new candidates, and this blog has described how Social Media Background Checks are often used to verify employee credentials, avoid negligent hiring, and for other hiring purposes. Employer use of Social Media Background Checks has been increasing in recent years, but concerns and lack of knowledge have caused some employers to proceed slowly and cautiously.

Some reasons:

Is this legal? The answer is yes, but compliance with many laws is required. On the federal level, the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Act) are the two greatest concerns. These can be complex, but the benefits of getting into the times probably far outweighs the costs. Many states have special laws that go beyond the federal ones.

Inertia – Many employers do not want to formalize the process of building Social Media Background Checks into their hiring processes, and getting the various legal docs required. These are actually not any more complex – and in fact are similar to – conventional credit and criminal background reports.

Why formalize if I can have it both ways? – Management often turns away when they hear that recruiters are already conducting informal Social Media Background Checks on potential recruits.  These off-the-record quickie searches are often conducted in a mass and willy-nilly fashion, early in the hiring process. In fact, many recruiters do quick social media reviews during the resume screening process, to whittle down the number of candidates and separate the wheat from the chaff, but sometimes management just doesn’t want to know what’s going on. But these informal checks may well be illegal themselves, and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Confusion – Is it ok to ask potential employees for login credentials? Is advance permission needed? What to do if something very startling is found? Do we need to check the AP clerk and forklift operator the same? What are the record keeping requirements? Third-party firms such as Social61 can sort this out, or it can be done internally – but a deliberate effort is required.

What are the advantages of Social Media Background Checks? Perhaps the biggest is to avoid negligent hiring or negligent retention. There is also verifying credentials, monitoring employee actions towards the employer, avoiding claims of discrimination, and more.

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