• First, the applicant must give the potential employer permission, by signing an ‘Acknowledgement and Consent Form’ (Google it) authorizing the client and their agent to conduct a background check. State clearly that the background check will include a search of online / social networks for information concerning their fit with the organization’s chemistry and culture as well as verification of the behaviors and skills relevant to a successful match-up.  (This is in contrast to credit and criminal background checks, which are about matters of record, and won’t reveal much about chemistry and culture).
• Ask someone who is not involved in the hiring – a neutral party – to do the online research.  That person should be aware of the job description, and stay focused on clear guidelines about what is truly relevant.
• After the first review, the results should be further redacted by another neutral party.
• Be aware that many online postings or blogs are inaccurate; most was probably entered with social concerns in mind, not a job. Joking and bragging are common, which is ok in this context, but often doesn’t look good to recruiters.  It’s probably a good idea to sit down and talk with the recruit about items of concern to learn what’s really true, and hear both sides of the story – and there are always two sides.  Again, consider using someone not directly involved in the hire; this will be more comfortable for all.

“A stitch in time saves nine.”