Should you use social media to give your applicants background checks?
Monday, November 6, 2017

****Article Updated January 2019****

Social media has become an increasingly efficient recruitment tool in recent years, making it easier for recruiters to connect with potential job candidates. But has it got a place further along in the recruitment process? Are social media background checks necessary and acceptable? We asked Simon Katchay, Business Development Manager from TARGETrecruit, to offer his expert insight on the disputed topic.


“I think the distinction that needs to be made is what the purpose of that social media platform is,” Simon explains. “LinkedIn is a social media platform designed for your professional life. It is a way to showcase your experience and by having a profile on there you are inviting people to view it.” In this way, LinkedIn can be an effective way of verifying assertions made on a CV as users are likely to have their education and employment history publicly visible.

Facebook and Twitter

But in the same way that LinkedIn invites people to connect, Facebook and Twitter are also platforms that provide an opportunity to learn more about a candidate. Nevertheless, as Simon previously stated, the purpose of the platform is crucial when identifying whether a social media check is appropriate. Facebook primarily invites interactions between friends rather than colleagues; people share their day-to-day life activities and ‘like’ images, videos and memes that are relevant to their personal life. Twitter can be used professionally, but is often a place from which users comment about current affairs, daily activities and share their general thoughts. This information isn’t wholly relevant to a recruiter.

Additionally, not only can individuals display a false online image of themselves, but learning more about a candidate’s personal interests, beliefs etc can affect the recruitment process in a negative way. “I believe it often leads to a conscious or unconscious bias being formed,” Simon points out. “Someone’s political or social views, for instance, do not impact their ability to do a job.” As a result, the recruiter’s perception of a candidate may become skewed by delving into their Facebook, or recruiters may be misled by what the candidate posts online.


Despite this, it can be argued that social media searches help identify whether a candidate will be a good cultural fit. Discovering more about the person behind the CV can reveal whether they are suited to the environment of a specific company. Blogs, for instance, are creative platforms that can provide a good example of an individual’s personality and interests. Additionally, they can serve as a portfolio that may be applicable to their job application.

Blogs, among other informal online platforms, can also flag up certain ideas and behaviours in a candidate that don’t comply with a company’s reputation, which can also be useful in the recruitment process. But is it necessary to check? Simon explains that “cultural fit can be established by putting in place the right recruitment process and selection tools, in the same way that we would assess for the required skills”. Therefore a quick search of Facebook may not be necessary when trying to determine if a person will fit in with your company.

Conclusion – privacy and professionalism

When it comes to the issue of privacy, social media checks can certainly cross a line. The General Data Protection Regulations  allow candidates to request data on the decision-making process in their application and the use of social media background checks  may lead to employers getting into murky water. Certain social media platforms will not necessarily reflect a candidate’s professional demeanor, which raises the question as to whether it is fair to include them in the recruitment process at all.

Ultimately, there needs to be a clear justification for reviewing a candidate’s social media presence. At the same time, Simon points out that “it is down to candidates to make sure the privacy settings on platforms such as Facebook are set high, as to maintain their social life but to also keep a level of privacy”.

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