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What do you need to know when an employer asks to screen your social media?
Some of the most common questions surrounding social media screening come from the candidate. What does a social media screening entail? Isn’t that an invasion of privacy? How do they know it’s me? While social media screening is becoming more widely adopted and accepted, it’s completely normal to feel a bit tense over an additional and likely unfamiliar screening process (we get it, we’ve been at it for years).
Here are a few basics your employer likely wants you to know about a social media background check as they roll out their social media screening procedures.
How does the company know it's me?
Social media screening firms take the utmost care in determining that identity is accurately authenticated. At Social Intel, our procedure is curated with the guidance of renowned employment law experts. Our team uses information provided by the candidate with consent during the application process to correctly identify an individual online. An online profile can only be authenticated by passing a battery of matching criteria. Information for matching criteria can include an email address, first and last names, employment history, education information, an image, among other factors.
What about my privacy?
Social media screening actually looks to protect a candidate's privacy. A Social Intelligence Report is not a vehicle for employers to be voyeuristic, in fact, it’s the opposite. We can’t speak for other products, but our reports only contain publicly available, potentially problematic, material that could have ramifications for business-related behavior (for more information about our content filters, click here). All other material that falls outside the bounds of our filters is left out of the report.
Additionally, our status as a third-party protects both the employer and candidate from hiring bias. If observed by a casual social media search by the hiring manager, protected class information such as pregnancy status, sexual orientation, or ethnicity can play a role in discriminatory hiring practices. Outsourcing this process to a third party helps ensure that candidates get a fairer shot by eliminating the temptation to “snoop”. This leads us to our next FAQ...
Will social media screening companies hack my accounts?
Social media screening firms will never ask for passwords or “hack” into accounts.
This is a common misconception from the early days of social media (can you believe we’ve been around almost as long as Twitter?). We don’t get this question as often anymore, but it’s still worth clarifying. Neither companies nor third-party screeners should be asking for passwords, forcing candidates to accept their friend requests, or hacking into a candidate or employee’s personal social media accounts. This could violate certain state laws. Plus, that’s just icky. We don’t want you to feel icky.
Is social media screening regulated? Who decides what can go on a report?
A reputable social media screening firm will be a Consumer Reporting Agency. A firm that has established itself as a CRA is required to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This means that social media screening firms are bound by the same rules as traditional background screening companies. Social Intelligence is a consumer reporting agency and the only social media screening company whose processes have been formally reviewed by the FTC. Social Intelligence Reports are required to meet FCRA standards and follow their guidelines!
Does my potential employer need my consent to screen my social media?
Yes. Just like any other background check, a social media report requires consent! Per FCRA rules, a social media screening firm must obtain consent from the candidate. If you’re unsure whether you’ve been asked to give consent for a social media screening, be sure to read your consent form thoroughly and ask your hiring manager if you have further questions. They may be able to give you a sample report and walk you through their screening policy.
As with any other consumer report, you are entitled to a copy of the report that your prospective employer receives.
Why does my potential employer use social media screening?
In-house screenings may not be fully compliant. While hiring managers may have the best intentions, performing an informal social media screening “in-house” is no longer considered a best practice. A company could be putting itself at risk by casually “googling” its employees by looking up their social media handles. Third-party social media screening is in most cases more efficient and accurate than in-house screening while protecting you and your potential employer all at once.
What kind of information can't go on social media screening reports?
Social media screening performed properly protects a candidate from discrimination during the hiring process. This is primarily done by eliminating protected class information from the hiring report so that an employer can adjudicate a report with as little bias as possible.
Not sure what protected class information means? The scope is wide and varies at the state level but can include anything related to race, religion, national origin, disabilities, pregnancy, family status, gender presentation, sexual orientation, age, military status, and much more.
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About the author
Lindsey is an HR content writer and lifestyle blogger.