Should You Screen Applicants Social Media?

Love it or loathe it, social media has become an intrinsic part of our daily lives and transformed how we communicate with each other, and it has also changed the world of recruitment and talent acquisition.

An incredible amount of data can be learned from candidates’ social media platforms, and it can be a temptation for employers to check sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to vet them before hiring. Even the current crop of Love Island contestants have had their social media vetted, according to The Metro.

Social media searches can provide employers with a deeper insight into a candidate they may not get from a CV or interview, but there are some significant risks if these checks are not carried out as part of the formal screening process, and hiring decisions are made using information you are not permitted to use.

A 2018 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 70 per cent of employers use social networks to research candidates during the hiring process and half of those admitted to not employing an applicant based on what they found there.

A report in 2018 stated that 60 per cent of businesses claim not to carry out any social media checks as part of the formal process, which suggests that there are many hiring managers checking candidates social media ‘unofficially’.

If this is correct, then employers need to be careful, as social media searches need to be compliant with discrimination and privacy laws.

There are risks that hiring managers could be making recruitment decisions based on social media checks that are subject to conscious and subconscious bias.

It’s therefore vital that all hiring managers are made aware of what information they can draw on when checking social media networks during the recruitment process, and decisions are based on information found that is revenant to the job role.

HR should also make sure managers are aware of the risks around protected characteristics and sensitive personal data, and have received training on relevant legislation such as the Equality Act and the GDPR.

It is recommended that employers have policies developed on the use of social media in recruitment, and robust equal opportunity and anti-discrimination policies will help reduce any risks.

Candidates should also be informed that a search of social media may be conducted on all applicants before an interview, and their permission obtained, making them aware so they can decide for themselves if they wish to be private or public on their social profiles.

It is important to remember that if a candidate has a social media platform, it was not created for their employers, even if it is public and part of the public domain, and they may not have given permission for it to be used as part of the recruitment process.

Ensure you are clear on the purpose for carrying out social media screening, and that you have a rationale for doing it. Consider what is important to you as an employer and the characteristics that are important to you for the job role.

Using Open Source intelligence techniques (OSINT), Agenda Screening Services uncover the valuable information you need from your candidates online digital footprint, we analyse social media, news, blogs, and publications – without being intrusive.


If you’re interested in outsourcing background checks, then come and speak to us today.

Our Team