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Company Takes on Social Media Background Checks for You

There was a day and age where job applicants only had to concern themselves with what was on their resumes and pretty much nothing else. In today's Internet age, however, social media is a big factor and is becoming even bigger as people look for work in the challenging economy.

Whether it is what one perceives as an innocent picture or comment that was meant in jest, what individuals say on their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ accounts, and other social media sites is being more closely monitored.

According to one CareerBuilder survey of approximately 2,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals, 37% of HR managers reported using social media sites to attain more information on prospective candidates as part of the background checks process. Meanwhile, another 11% said they would be doing likewise soon.

For those businesses that may just be starting out or have been around for a while but are newer to social media, social media background checks need to be done with a degree of respect for the candidate and the respective site itself.

One newer business that is assisting employers in learning more about prospective candidates is the year-old start-up Social Intelligence, which crawls the Internet in search of everything a potential candidate has said or done online over the last seven years.

With the information then in hand, the company puts together a portfolio containing items that include professional honors and charitable work, along with negative data that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit images, text messages, or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs; and easy to identify violent acts.

According to the company's CEO, Max Drucker, the California-based company, which was found to be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, is not made up of detectives; they simply put together all available data that is out there on the Internet for each prospective employee.

Drucker notes that his company’s goal is to put together pre-employment screenings that would assist businesses in meeting their obligation to conduct fair and consistent hiring practices while protecting the privacy of job applicants.

While there is no federal law in place that could potentially lead to possible lawsuits against employers or information research companies visiting applicant social media sites, more attention is being turned to protecting job seekers.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups, along with social media
giant Facebook, have not been shy about letting employers know they are turning their attention to this practice.

Legislators in several states have adopted language that would prohibit employers from demanding applicants to provide passwords to their private Facebook accounts or other social media accounts.

Facebook has also gone public with news that it will take employers to court when they try to acquire information, claiming it is a violation of the company's policies.

So, what are some of the things employers may be looking for on an applicant's social media profile or profiles?

Don't be surprised to see them looking at:

  • Lewd photos showing the applicant in a compromising position
  • Comments that seem to single out someone regarding their gender, race, religious beliefs, and/or disability
  • Comments regarding a former employer that could lead a potential employer to shy away from hiring them
  • Remarks regarding any past criminal activity

For employers, it is best to tread lightly and focus more on an applicant's LinkedIn site, where the individual is more apt to highlight their business achievements and connections.

In the event that a candidate for a job is hesitant to release access to information on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media pages, employers should not automatically assume that the applicant is trying to hide something during routine background checks.

At best, employers should only search for and review public content related to the prospective employee. Companies would be advised not to demand applicants to produce their username and password for social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Finally, it is important that employers apply the same rules for all candidates that they search on. To single out an applicant or two and peruse their social media, letting other applicants slide by, could certainly be considered as discrimination in some eyes.

As social media continues to grow and encompass more and more lives, employers need to use it appropriately while running background checks in order to not discriminate and/or miss out on a good candidate.

About the author:

With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave Thomas covers a wide
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