Why Screening a Candidate's Social Media Can Be Misleading?

Shannon Correia April 22, 2021

Screening a candidate’s social media accounts has become the norm among recruiters, though no consensus has been reached on whether this should be the case or how to go about implementing it ethically. After all, digital persona’s can be misleading. Here’s what your business needs to consider. 

Screening a Candidate’s Social Media

Social media is used frequently by billions of people around the world. These platforms are used to create, share and communicate online in engaging, interactive and far-reaching spaces. Content shared on social media is considered published material with immediacy and a sense of permanency (with digital traces beyond deletion).

In all likelihood, your candidates will have accounts of their own. These profiles are tempting for recruiters to screen for a couple of reasons. They illustrate two main things to a business: a glimpse into who you are as a person and what you’re passionate about, as well as a representation of the kind of persona that will be associated with your brand. 

There are legal and ethical issues associated with the screening of social profiles. Legally, these accounts can reveal information about a candidate that would otherwise be unknown and influence a decision and create an unfair advantage or disadvantage - for instance, you’d have to prove that your inclusion or exclusion of the candidate is not based on race or disability.

This leads us to the second issue; the one of ethics. When screening candidate’s, you’ll need to conduct the searches accurately and fairly using a formal process. The same procedure needs to be followed, and this can be difficult when some candidates will have public profiles, while others keep their accounts private. 

Once this can of worms is opened, there is essentially no going back, and you could easily stumble across information that aids unconscious biases. If the candidate does have something that the business isn’t keen on featured on their profile, the business cannot ask them to change, hide, or remove it. The fact is, there are all sorts of information that you can find on these profiles. These are the common factors that recruiters look for when screening social media accounts:

  • Illegal activity 
  • Provocative behaviour
  • Discriminatory or defamatory remarks
  • Extremities
  • Inebriation 

Having any of the above or anything that toes the line of what is deemed as appropriate behaviour could rule you out as a candidate, or lead to unfavourable perceptions associated with your application. While today’s new norm places importance on having a separate work-life balance, these lines are being increasingly blurred. This is especially true for the younger generation who want their work to be aligned with who they are as people. 

The fact remains, however, that social media screening is common practice, and all public and user generated content that is public is often reviewed during background checks. It can be an indication as to whether or not someone is a good fit for your brand - for instance, a candidate applying for a role at a vegan brand would likely benefit from sharing a vegan lifestyle. 

screen candidate social media

Social Media Screening Can be Misleading

Having a glimpse into personal lives, however, can easily be seen as an invasion of privacy. After all, the home-life of a candidate could have nothing to do with their ability to perform their job well. There are, of course, instances where the online reputation of an individual is necessary as it’ll be closely liked to the brand, or in cases where these platforms showcase the creative skills of the candidate. 

Many businesses understand that social media is an intrinsic yet complex part of our daily lives. That is why they do not screen their candidates social media. This is seen as a way to incorporate diversity and inclusivity in the business. It goes back to the principle of not judging a book by its cover and having an open and accepting policy towards candidates, where passion and skill reign supreme. 

  • Context: Posts may be taken out of context, or simply represent a viewpoint that is controversial.
  • Cancel culture: Society is moving away from ‘cancel culture,’ where people are annexed after making a mistake. 
  • Relevancy: The content shared should be assessed with its relevancy and appropriateness for the person. In other words, noting it was shared for a purpose which may never draw reflections of your brand.

Digital Recruitment: Social Media for Business

  • Social media for hiring: Many businesses are including social media as a recruitment platform. It is especially important on professional sites like LinkedIn, where you can assess someone's public working history.
  • Social media for employer branding: Employer branding is all the rage today, as employers are having to boost their own social media presence as employers, since candidates are screening them too. This should be a reflection of your company culture and used as platforms for connecting and networking with others. 
  • Social media screening: If your business would like to screen candidates social media profiles as part of your selection processes, it is recommended that you are transparent about it (ask for social media links and handles) and explain why it is important.

The Final Word

Social media screening is often used during candidate selections as it can reveal a lot of information about the person. It is important to consider that this can be a misleading and unfair practice. This is why formal processes need to be used to ensure that biases do no influence recruitment decisions. Brands today also need to screen themselves to ensure that their own social media posts and digital presence are up to scratch, as more and more people are screening the brands they work for. 

Nexa is a digital marketing agency based in Dubai. We help businesses with a wide range of services, including HR and social media. Book a quick meeting with us to discuss what we can do to transform your business. 

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