Using Social Media To Run Pre-Employment Background Checks

Social media offers valuable insight into the life of a potential candidate. You can use it to validate a potential employee’s assertions regarding their prior work history.

Simon Crompton, freelance Journalist and entrepreneur; Source: Courtesy Photo
Simon Crompton, freelance Journalist and entrepreneur; Source: Courtesy Photo

Social media offers valuable insight into the life of a potential candidate. You can use it to validate a potential employee’s assertions regarding their prior work history.

You can also use it to scout candidates for job openings. Because of all this information provided so freely, it is completely acceptable to use social media to perform a basic background check as long as you balance the legal risks as well.

A social media background check is a helpful way to confirm your instincts about a potential candidate. It’s a powerful tool that must be used correctly. 

Here’s how you can use LinkedIn and other social platforms to successfully screen candidates.


1. Start with Google

Google is the obvious place to start when looking for a candidate’s social media profiles. Put the candidate’s name and location in the search engine to search relevant profiles.

Some people have personal and professional pages. sing Google helps you search for both. Ensure to vet candidates fairly and equally using the same process for the entire candidate pool. Given you can only access public accounts, never request access to private accounts or ask for information that could lead to privacy concerns.

It is okay to use background check sites, but don’t go too far. This includes friending or following a candidate to get their information.

The best rule of thumb is to respect your candidate and their privacy. Finally, be wary of doppelganger accounts. Match the picture or information from the application to make sure you have the right account. Don’t pursue profiles that you aren’t 100% certain belong to a candidate.


2. Verify information

When it comes to professional work history validation, there is no better place to go than LinkedIn. First, if their profile is public, run through the candidate’s job history to make sure it matches their profile.

Check out references or any colleagues that endorsed them during their time at various roles. If the candidate lists any skills, look for confirmation on LinkedIn. If they received an endorsement for that skill, it is a good sign that they are proficient in this area.

Remember that LinkedIn is not the best place for every candidate to show off their hard skills. If the candidate posts a link to an online portfolio, spend plenty of time there, too.


3. Look for red flags

You can also use social media to look for red flags concerning potential job candidates. If you have hesitations or concerns about a candidate based on their application, you can alleviate these online.


Photo: © djile, YFS Magazine
Photo: © djile, YFS Magazine

For example, you might find that a candidate’s LinkedIn features a job description different than the one you received. You’ll want to ask follow up questions to figure out what happened. Alternatively, you might find posts that don’t jive well with your company culture.

Develop some strategic questions for the candidate so they can delve deeper into their experience and work ethic.


4. Avoid subjectivity traps

There is one big problem with using social media to screen job candidates. Not everything you find is going to be true or a good reflection of the candidate. This is true of almost every candidate.

Recognize inconsistencies, but avoid judging the candidate based on how they spend their free time. A person’s sense of humor or friend list is not a reflection of how well they’d do their job.

Remember, social media is a safe space for people to express themselves. Don’t police a candidate’s profile and make snap judgements based on their posts. What you see online is not always what you get in the office.


5. Don’t discriminate.

Social media provides you with a lot of personal information that you won’t receive in an application. It is important to remember that age, sex, religion, race, national origin or sexual preference cannot play a role in your decision.

In fact, using this information in that manner is illegal and can open you up to discrimination lawsuits. Best practices for avoiding this kind of influence includes scrubbing all this information from your searches to begin with. 

It is also important to remember that candidates can discuss their previous employer online. In most states, you cannot discriminate against them for doing so.


If you choose not to hire someone after a social media search, create a list of legitimate reasons for turning them down to protect yourself. You can use social media to help with the hiring process, but remember to use it ethically, fairly and legally.

Stick to relevant job requirements, responsibilities and be honest with candidates about your culture and job screening process. This is the best way to prevent lawsuits and protect your company’s reputation.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Simon Crompton is  a freelance journalist and entrepreneur running several online businesses including his marketing firm, Threecolors.blue. Simon spends the majority of his time blogging about business startups and consulting on web development. He has launched multiple online companies. He is also a dedicated follower of fashion, and has written for the Financial Times and GQ. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.


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