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DO’s and DON’Ts of Social Media Screening

by Asangi Jasenthuliyana 25 Jul, 2019

After the initial screening is done and a few potential candidates are shortlisted, the next thing to tick off  is the background checks. Companies usually refer to ex-employers and referees for validation. Most often than not we tend to look them up on LinkedIn to verify their corporate information, occasionally scanning FB profiles or Twitter handles to get some insight to their lives. But there is more to social media screening than simply looking up a candidate for curiosity sake. 

Social media can be used for more meaningful screening of your candidates. Scanning through their tweets to understand their level of job related knowledge or outlook on current issues to more a deeper understanding of their personalities and character.  

Social media screening can be a very effective way of selecting an employee. It can ultimately save a company from going through the cumbersome and expensive process of firing or disrupted organizational culture due to bad hires. 

The general process oSM screening is; 

 

 

And in some other solutions a human analyst gets involved in doing a manual screening before the final report is generated. 

Whilst this sounds straight forward there is a lot more to consider than simply taking a system generated report and profiling an individual. HR functions have become more complex over the years, especially with the rise of technology and privacy concerns. Social media screening is not something to be carelessly handled. It is a very sensitive topic and need to be kept confidential.  

Here are a few DO’s and DON’Ts of social media screening to help you use it effectively

1. Create a policy 

Social media screening is sensitive procedure and needs to be kept confidential. If you don’t have an appropriate and consistent policy this could back fire on you very easily. HR, (together with Legal) needs to formulate a document stating the process, guidelines on conducting screening, people who are authorized to conduct this research, what to look for etc... Make sure the policy is in line with the local legislation. 

The policy needs to be as transparent as possible and clearly communicated internally. Also, to potential candidates. 

 2. Context matters 

Ensure you screen everyone the same way following the same process, tools and evaluation criteria. You can’t screen someone you prefer for a job vs someone who is your second choice differently.  

If you are rejecting a candidate based on something you saw or read on their social profiles, ensure it is a legitimate post. Dig a bit deeper to get more context to the statement or photo.  Don’t just take things at face value.  there maybe a reason they posted or commented in such a way that it comes off negative. If you look hard enough you will find the root cause. 

Things are not always what they seem. 

3. Look for patterns 

Before you judge someone to be toxic over one status update or comment look for patterns of toxic behavior. If they are consistently posting racist, sexist or cruel statements then you can be sure this person may be unfit for your work culture.  

You can easily spot the telltale signs a toxic behavior if you come across evidence of approval, glorification or pro animal cruelty, harassment, radical behavior. These people may come off ‘nice’ at interviews and are able to be ‘nice’ for a few short days on the job. But eventually their true selves start to show.  They may not be big bold statements at first but subtle, uncomfortable gestures and phrases 

4. Keep an open mind 

We all have our own personal views on things. This doesn’t mean others share the same sentiments. They certainly don’t have to agree with us.  Though it is easier to relate to someone who shares your view and instantly like that person, this isn’t always the case. A person’s outlook on life (in general) changes with situations, gender, age, technology, education level etc… 

Therefore, it is important to be open to views that may clash with your own. Just because they are different doesn’t mean they are wrong, hateful, negative or prejudiced.  

( Who knows, it might even give you a different perspective on a situation you have been stuck with for a while? 😊 ) 

5. Be consistent. Be unbiased   

Make sure you evaluate using the same criteria for everyone.  Based on the industry, the job role and job function you would have already formulated you Social media screening policy.   

Don’t start your back ground check with the hopes of finding something negative. Treat everyone equally. Even though you may be tempted to cut corners to reduce cost, processing time or because the person shortlisted had an excellent reputation refrain from doing so. 

This is violation of the policy you have set yourself and affects the transparency of your process. Not to mention how this can affect the credibility of your organization  

6. What does the candidate have to say?  

Before making your final decisions, it is important to have a conversation with the candidate during a one on one meeting or an interview. Don’t just assume. Directly question what you found on their Social media rather than passing judgments. Keep an open mind to hearing their side of the story, be patient and get informed. Understanding the situation before making any decisions will be valuable for both parties 

7. Review and update your policy 

Like all regulations and policies, internal procedures need to be revised from time to time too.  With the many changes in our work environments you need to re think the way you handle many things. Most of all you need to keep up with changing values and technology.  

You must also take any mistake you have made in the past (in the screening process) positively and change regulations where necessary. Read up on new HR practices and adopt suitable ones accordingly. It’s important to be relevant and up-to-date.  

 

 

If used right, social media screening can be a very powerful tool in your hiring process. It can give you valuable insight to your employees.  The important thing is to stay within the legal boundaries and follow proper procedure.  Avoid jumping to conclusions and when in doubt always address it head on.