A social media screening looks at a candidate’s social media presence across various platforms to ascertain what types of content they are posting, reacting to or sharing. This content gives a far deeper and more intricate picture of a candidate than one might receive in a job interview. Not only are people on their very best behaviour during an interview, but it’s borderline impossible to understand the nuances of a person in an hour-long interview. People are also more comfortable expressing their true thoughts and opinions on social media, especially if they have cultivated like-minded connections.  

Social media risk assessments offer insights into a person’s opinions, values and more. Even the kinds of content they find funny will tell you something about them. They may post innocuous content for the most part, but “Haha” react to wildly inappropriate racist content, for example. This would be something to note when hiring the candidate, as if these views are shared on social media, it’s likely, that they will bubble up in day-to-day conversations or unconscious biases, and you need to consider how that may reflect on your company.  

What are the ethical and legal considerations of using social media risk assessments in background checks, though? Is it ethical to use a person’s innermost opinions and thoughts as a reason not to hire them? Especially considering that people behave, speak and engage very differently in a professional capacity than they do in a personal one. A person may post about excessive alcohol consumption on the weekends but come to work sober and focused. Is it ethical to not want to hire someone based on their unflattering photos posted the weekend prior?  

The ethical considerations were outlined by CEO of Farosian, Farhad Bhyat, iFacts’ supplier of social media risk assessments. Bhyat said, “First and foremost, what processes are in place to ensure no conscious or subconscious discrimination takes place? The next essential is to determine how each person will be measured. A subjective measurement in itself promotes conscious and unconscious bias in evaluating a person’s digital presence and activity.”  

Essentially, if the assessment is done internally, the person doing the assessment may have personal biases that may influence their opinion of the candidate. Bhyat’s suggestion is to outsource your social media screening to a third-party supplier to alleviate concerns of bias and to address the legalities of the screening.  

There is a legal framework that needs to be adhered to, to do social media screening that is accepted as legal and just. According to Bhyat, “By outsourcing social media screening, the legal liability is all but eliminated as professional providers make use of a balanced assessment and criteria to screen individuals. These providers also will ensure that legally protected information is not included in the reporting. This single aspect ensures that no conscious or subconscious bias can take place and that the legal aspect is addressed.”  

Social media risk assessments are an incredibly valuable tool in employee screening and should be utilised in the screening process to get the true measure of a candidate. As long as your screening partner is compliant, Bhyat says, “conducting social media screening for professional purposes is no different than when the large majority “stalk” people whom they know or have met in a personal capacity.” 

For a social media risk assessment that is both ethical and legal, from a compliant screening provider, choose iFacts. 

Hire with confidence, hire with iFacts.  

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