A Guide for HR on Social Media Screening

In a standard job application, hiring managers usually request a candidate’s CV, covering letter, portfolio and references,  amongst other things – but have the candidate’s social media profiles been included as one of those requirements?


The growth of social media use is profoundly changing the way HR departments conduct background checks and screen applicants to confirm their credentials. But although social media screening is on the rise, many employers still refrain from the practice for fear of legal or privacy implications.


Some surveys show around 70% of employers glance at applicants’ profiles before considering them for a role. Clearly, social media screening is no longer a taboo and is becoming a standard part of the screening process for new hires. But the fact remains it’s a tricky area to navigate, with many considerations around data protection and compliance.


A person’s digital footprint provides a wealth of information regarding their character. And this information can be used to mitigate risk and ensure the right employees are hired for the business and the role. Monitoring ongoing online activity can also help HR departments and managers be proactive rather than reactive, alerting them to any issues that come up over time such as:


  • extreme views / opinions
  • hate and discriminatory behaviour
  • illegal activities
  • inappropriate / undesirable content
  • potential addiction or substance abuse
  • sexually explicit content
  • violent content


There’s much more to social media screening than simply looking up an applicant’s Facebook profile and going through their tweets. Here’s a guide for HR on the do’s and don’ts of social media searches:


DO …

  • Apply your social media policy to new hires but allow for some coaching / deleting of old posts.
  • Be consistent. Set a policy and don’t ‘pick and choose’ when to conduct social media searches.
  • Inform the candidate in advance that social media searches will be included in their employment screening checks.
  • Ensure your policies reflect modern life. How we present ourselves online is often open for all to see – friends, families, colleagues, employers and customers. With appropriate screening tools now available, claiming you ‘didn’t know’ may no longer be a defensible position.


  • Don’t run social media searches internally and risk oversights, inconsistencies, inaccuracies and potential discrimination.
  • Don’t lose context when reviewing any ‘red-flagged’ results.
  • Don’t rely on the candidate to tell you where to look – many will have multiple aliases online, some of which they may seek to conceal.
  • Don’t focus solely on the negatives – there’ll be plenty of positives out there too – it’s good to look at these as well, to get a balanced picture.
  • Don’t allow protected characteristics to feature in your reports or your decision-making.


Discover how we can help you navigate social media searches here.


in Pre Employment Screening, Social Media Screening by

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