HR Management

How to Screen an Applicant’s Social Media

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Most people have some form of social media presence these days, and whether or not it should impact your employment opportunities has been a subject of intense debate. After all, companies want to know that the person they are considering hiring isn’t a potential bad hire, which could reflect badly on your company and cause financial and reputational damage.

Some argue that what’s on a person’s social media doesn’t have anything to do with their job, so shouldn’t be a factor. After all, what a person does outside of work is their own business, right?

It’s a bit of a moral grey area, but the fact is, companies need to protect themselves. According to recent research, up to 90% of employers check a candidates social media presence before they hire them. Of those questioned, almost 80% of HR professionals have discounted someone from a job due to the content on their social media channels.

Screening in this way is becoming standard practice alongside the rest of your background checks. After all, you need to know that people are right for the job. You wouldn’t hire someone to drive trucks without the right kind of license and driving record, or you’d find yourself liable if there was an accident and needed an expert trucking lawyer to defend you. The same goes for every role in your company.

So how far should you go when screening applicants?

Social Media Screening

In today’s recruitment sector, a candidate is judged on much more than their resume. Most HR departments and hiring managers will do a Google search on applicants to see what turns up.

It’s worth keeping in mind that screening candidates in this way aren’t only about weeding out potential bad hires, it can help you headhunt the right candidates too.

So what are you looking for when assessing a candidates social profile? Most commonly:

  • Disclosing sensitive information about previous employers or clients
  • Hate speech
  • Illegal activity
  • Online bullying/trolling
  • Threatening behavior

Use a Professional Checking Service

A comprehensive screening of potential employees is always money well spent. There’s a lot to be said about using a specialist agency to do this for you. Firstly, they know what they are doing and can do it quickly. There’s also the possibility that if you conduct these checks yourself in house, you could potentially subject the applicant to bias.

For example, studies have shown that women with young children are less likely to be hired or promoted as there is an assumption that they are not as committed to their roles, whereas there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Accessing someone’s social media may force them to divulge protected characteristics that they would not ordinarily have to disclose about their marital status, sexual orientation, religion etc.

If you are going to conduct your own checks, ensure that you comply with all relevant laws and regulations to ensure that you are legally compliant.


Assessing a person’s social media accounts is a very personal thing, even if they have made them public. You should handle everything with sensitivity and avoid asking any personal questions about information you’ve obtained from their social media. Be clear about what you’re looking for and what shouldn’t be considered. You’re doing it to make sure that they are going to be a good hire for your company, not to make judgements about every aspect of their lifestyle.

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