Using Social Media for Background Checks – Part 1

Using Social Media for Background Checks – Part 1

By Jennifer Gladstone


How many times a day do you check social media? For some of you, it may be too many to count. But that habit could actually get you in trouble if you are involved in the hiring process. The Screening News Network’s Jennifer Gladstone spoke with Philadelphia employment law expert Jonathan Segal about the risks and rewards of checking out your applicants’ profiles.



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Social media… it’s become such an omnipresent part of our lives. Do you even remember what it was like before you could post your status in mere seconds and immediately get feedback from your friends, family and professional network?

All this online sharing has created a minefield for employers and hiring managers… but is it a forbidden fruit?

Jonathan Segal: Attorney, Duane Morris – “Can they use it? I’ll be a lawyer and answer one word- yes. SHOULD they use it? I’ll be a little more like a real lawyer and answer – maybe I think there has been this resistance because if you use it, what may you find? You may find things you can’t consider… you may find that someone’s pregnant; you may find that someone has a medical condition because it could be posted on their Facebook page. If you know it, someone could say you considered it.So there are risks in doing it. But, you know, there are risks of not doing it”

A CareerBuilder survey highlighted some of those risks. Employers say they passed on an applicant after seeing the candidate posted:

  • 46 % – Provocative or inappropriate photographs or information
  • 41% – Information about them drinking or using drugs
  • 36% – Posts bad-mouthing previous employers or former colleagues
  • 28% – Derogatory comments about race, gender or religion
  • 22% – Details about criminal behavior
  • 13% – That they lied about an absence from work
  • 21% – Had an unprofessional screen name
  • And many more.

As Segal mentioned, weeding out people over some of these issues can actually save you from trouble and even litigation in the future. He told us one story of a candidate who was interviewing to be a college recruiter. A search of PUBLIC information may have saved this school tons of headaches.

Jonathan Segal: Attorney, Duane Morris – “What they saw was a picture of someone being interviewed to be a college recruiter and he was wearing nothing but a thong! Now, that’s not a good idea for anyone on their Facebook- for this guy it was a particularly bad idea. And could you imagine if the school, the college, had not done it? The parents would say you know, you are going to be interviewed by “x” tomorrow, let’s see what we can find out about him, because we employers are doing social media searches, but so are applicants. And then they would find out they are being interviewed by Thong Man! Not a good thing!”

So what is an employer to do? What are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to using social media for hiring? Those details are coming up in part two of our Social Media Series.


About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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