Social Media Screening: A guide for HR and candidates

social media screening

If you’re a hiring manager, you’ll almost certainly be requesting candidate’s CVs, covering letters and their references – but is it common that you also ask for their social media info?

Social media use has grown titanically and has had an explosive effect on society. HR departments have been forced to change the way they perform background screening. Despite this, the concern of privacy and legal implications has kept many employers from conducting social media screening.

However, with some studies showing as much as 70% of employers taking a look at a candidate’s profiles before hiring them, the process is evidently becoming a common element of the screening process for new applicants. At Credence, we recommend it be conducted on all new hires. We’ve all seen brand image damaging social media posts in the news. Nonetheless, with many pitfalls around data protection and compliance to navigate, it can remain a tricky area to navigate.

The social media footprint a person leaves can provide deep insight into their character. Therefore, such information can be used by HR departments to reduce risk and to make sure the right person is hired for the job. If online activity is monitored as an ongoing process, managers can proactively react to any issues that may arise, for example:

-Illegal activities

-Violent content

-Sexually explicit content

-Extreme views

-Hateful/discriminatory behaviour

-Inappropriate content

Background screening of social media involves more than just looking through a candidate’s Facebook profile and tweets. Here’s some advice for HR on the best practices of social media services.

Good practices:

-Choose a policy and apply it – don’t choose when you’re going to do a social media search.

-Apply the social media policy to any new hires, but allow for deletion of old posts

-Tell the applicant in advance that social media searches will be a part of their employment screening.

-Make sure that your policies are realistic. How we show ourselves online is often open for everyone around us – friends, families, colleagues, employers… and customers, to see. Claiming ignorance may not be a defensible position in a world with the screening tools we now have available.

Bad practices:

Don’t forget context whilst reviewing a red-flag result.

-If you concentrate only on the negatives – you’ll get a less balanced view than by seeing the positives that are also there.

-Don’t risk oversights, inconsistencies, inaccuracies and potential discrimination by running social media screening internally.

-Protected characteristics should not appear in your reports.

Advice for Candidates

Looking for a new job? Changing to a professional role after graduating university? You’ll want to be giving your social media a deep clean, because hiring managers will be looking through your tweets, Facebook, and Instagram stories. Dependent upon the industry, the vast majority of companies will be screening social media. Here’s how to clean up your pages, lock down your privacy setting and do a test social media screen on yourself.

Screening Yourself

First of all, make sure those privacy settings are locked down. It never hurts to double check when a job may be on the line. Here are a couple of steps to take to make sure you are prepared to begin your job search.

Google Yourself

You’ll want to make sure you’re in your browser’s private mode (in Chrome, ‘incognito). This makes sure that any cookies, history, etc. you have do not affect the search results. As such, you’ll be put in the shoes of a person having their first try googling your name.

If the search turns up any compromising information or pictures, you’ll need to do something about it. Contact a website directly to have private information removed. You have the right to demand this, but, unfortunately, in some cases, legal action may be necessary to force takedown of private content.

If the search turns up a lot of adverse material or websites are not compliant with your requests for removal, there are services available that will clean your presence from the internet.

Go Through Your Social Media Pages

Our social media pages are frequently the most common first results to pop up on Google. Even if you no longer use any social media except, say, LinkedIn and Facebook, you may be shocked to find an ancient Myspace account still active and spreading embarrassing teenage photos.

Your Google search should bring up your social media pages. Using private browsing, you can see the page as a stranger would see and what access they have to your profiles. However, it’s common that you need to log in to view content, for example on sites such as Facebook. Nonetheless, these sites often have the function built in to see your page as an outsider does. This can serve as a useful way to see what information you’re giving away when you can’t use incognito mode.  Now you know how you appear to others. What’s your next step?

Readying Your Social Media For Your Job Hunt

It’s the digital age and, to prepare for a job search, we’re going to have to do more than just print out our CV. Let’s take a look at how to make your social media ready for any screening you may undergo.

Professional, Consistent Profile Photos

Take a look at your pages’ profile pictures and consider how they appear. Perhaps that photo of your face is a little too close? Is your dog or cat representing you? Think about how professional your profile picture appears, and consider changing if you decide it’s necessary.

The perfect photo should have you as the focus – not yourself in a group. Expert advice says to keep the same or similar photo across all the social media you use, making you recognizable, as well as these three tips:

-Smile – show your teeth

-If it’s a work-based network like LinkedIn, dress formally

-Make sure your head and shoulders are visible

Be Careful About Your Posting

It’s fair to say that employers are searching for competent and composed professionals for their companies. If your social media doesn’t match this, you may want to change your posting habits. If you want apply for manager-level positions at a financial company, you probably want to cut back on any posts of you and your friends going out partying.

Some other guidelines that could be helpful:

-Put in limits on what people can post to your page or profile. How others think of you – and their interactions with you – could potentially give employers the wrong impression. If you have any friends that post offensive material, you may want to remove them

-Avoid posting text or images that are easily misinterpreted. Think carefully before posting and stay away from sharing anything that might be controversial or insensitive.

-Never post about your previous (or current!) job/boss/coworkers negatively. Your previous boss may have been horrible, but talking about it publicly looks like airing your dirty laundry – certainly not a professional look.

Make Sure You’re Making the Correct Posts

Why do companies do pre-employment screening? One of the reasons is to see if they’re what they’re looking for in the role, for instance. Take your LinkedIn profile – it may be searched for endorsements of key skills. Facebook posts can be a good indicator of your ability to communicate online.

No matter the role, a company will be, of course, seeking a qualified candidate. Whilst you should have this on your CV and bring it up in any interview scenario, it can also be helpful to add your skills and qualifications to social media profiles.

On Twitter, you have a short bio space where you can give some information on your professional strengths. This is particularly important for those who work in digital marketing – your social media profiles can showcase your understanding of the space. Instagram is a great place to show off your #hashtagging ability.

Don’t make any mistakes in your posts to pass any social media screening and get that next job.

Showcase Your Ability

Whilst, on the one hand, social media may be something you use between your friends and family, it can also be a fantastic tool for self-promotion. The obvious example is LinkedIn, but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube can also be used to showcase your professional ability.

This can be a great way to impress a potential employer. What you post about will depend on the industry you’re in, however. For example, if you work in sales, could it hurt to post about your quarterly successes? If you’re a creative, your social media can act as a sort of portfolio, allowing you to share your creations.

This goes to show employers that you have a real passion for your work, you won’t just be clocking in the 9-5 and doing the bare minimum.

Let Your Personality Show

Ok, so you’ve got your pictures, descriptions streamlined and professional looking. However, that’s far from all you can do to get your foot in the door. Letting your personality show through isn’t something that is focused on much when it comes to talking about social media for job searches. Nonetheless, being open about yourself (to an extent!) will help you appear more likeable, relatable and personable.

social media screening