Most companies conduct informal “quickie” Social Media Background Checks as recruits move through the recruiting and on-boarding routines. But – be careful. There are many ways that these ad-hoc, informal processes can backfire. At “best” you will reject a great candidate based on misunderstood information; at worst you will reject the candidate AND end up in court.

Make sure that your in-house recruiters DON’T –

Website Contractual Violations
Have your recruiters read the “Terms of Use” on all of the web sites where they are mining data?  Are screenshots of the various blogging and social media sites legal or not?  What about all of those constantly changing terms, conditions and provisions about privacy or use of IP?  Seemingly minor actions here, such as inadvertently displaying a copyrighted photo (even if irrelevant to your work) may result in copyright violations, a breach of contract, and other violations with fast and easy damages to the plaintiff.

The EEOC and Discrimination
Several blog entries here have described how information put into the hands of hiring authorities or management at the wrong time can lead to problems with the EEOC.  EEOC will assume that discrimination is in the air when a social media poster discusses her or his race, color, national origin, sex, or religion; disability; genetic information (including family medical history); and age (40 or older), and this information ends up in your recruiting files such as emails or pdf’s.  There are ways to side-step this, but these processes won’t come about by accident.  Ironically, if your recruiters are too good at EEOC compliance, the value of the resulting Social Media Background Reports decreases.

Is It True? Today?
Just about every social media aficionado tries to project a certain image of themselves online.  Perhaps they stretch the truth a little, or perhaps things were true in the past but are no longer an accurate characterization.  For example, what if someone is bragging about the number of sex partners they’ve had?  Is this true?  We all know what they say about the people who talk the most.  What if the posting was from college days long ago?  And what if sexual postings on women appear more often in Social Media Background Reports than for men?  This might be seen as discrimination and would probably get the EEOC – excited.

Did We Really Get to the Bottom?
Did the Facebook or Google search (page 1) turn out ok?  There are thousands of other Social media sites that may not look so good.  No one can guarantee that all important postings have been reviewed.  The only question really is – have we looked hard enough?