social media backgroundFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other social media sites are simply filled with insight and information that can help employers narrow down a large field of prospective candidates or make a final employment decision.

Peering into the social world of a candidate’s Facebook page to view photos, read wall postings, and even check out their friends and family – is oh so tempting as these insights can help you assess the character, personality, maturity, and other characteristics of someone who may soon join your workforce.

Some employers have even taken to requiring candidates to provide their personal Facebook passwords to facilitate this investigative process.

But is a social media background check really a good idea?

Employment screening always requires HR to walk a fine line between an individual’s privacy rights and a company’s need for due diligence and risk management.  Social media background checks make that line almost impossible not to cross.  So while there is a lot to like about social media for employment screening, you may soon find yourself running the other direction.

Out of date information, mis-tagged photos, mis-identified profile pages, and who’s to say what the people in those photos are actually doing?

You can’t un-ring a bell.

Employers who take it upon themselves to peruse through an applicant’s social media background are likely to get more than intended. And this can be unintentionally risky.

One might think they’re just going to take a quick glance at a Facebook profile but what they might actually uncover is the religious or sexual orientation, age, marital status, or other factors that really should not even be considered in making a hiring decision.  Well, let me ask how you think you’ll prove that while you did happen to find out your applicant is homosexual, bisexual, Muslim, Christian, African-American, Hispanic, etc. your findings were not considered in deciding the fate of an unsuccessful applicant?  The bell has been rung…

Social media background checks have a careful place.

It is possible to get the benefits of social media insight with fewer associated risks.  How? You’ve got to hire a professional background screening company to perform the social media investigations on your behalf.

Just as you wouldn’t go down to the court house and pull your own criminal records report or run an “instant” background check, social media background checks are not a DIY project.

Employers turn to professional screening companies for these types of checks for the protection of both the employer and the applicant.

A professional background screening company will be trained, experienced, and qualified to distinguish between things that are discernible, reportable, and fair to consider in the hiring process and things that are simply not.  Plus, a screening company will be able to assist beyond just social media checks to make sure you have a balanced, comprehensive, and compliant approach.

Not allowing your HR folks to run amuck around Facebook protects your company and promotes a fair hiring process that your applicants will appreciate.

Do yourself a favor by consulting with a background screening company to assess your program and its risks.