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The COVID-19 Effect on Social Media Screening

April 28, 2020

April 28, 2020

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Over the past month, hiring managers and staffing organizations have had to dramatically adjust their hiring practices in order to accommodate remote work.  According to Global Workplace Analytics, at least 40% of the workforce worked remotely with some frequency (before COVID-19) and that number has skyrocketed as companies transitioned to remote work during this crisis.

As a result, managers are having to learn how to operate a remote workforce, which involves interacting with employees across online platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and many more, which mimic the functions of social media.  A caveat is that communication via these tools is more informal.  Personal and professional lines are blurred, and verbally abusive or threatening behavior sometimes occurs.  There’s a risk of a toxic workplace even while we’re individually in the safety of our homes.

Then, there’s the “free” time employees have between Zoom video calls and other tasks when they’re picking up their mobile devices to communicate with friends, family and co-workers over Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.  The bottom line is that social media use has climbed sharply during both work hours as well as after-work due to stay at home orders.

Once a Hidden Practice, Now A Growing Need

The adoption of social media screening in pre-hire stages has grown steadily the during the past decade.  Recruiters first recognized its value in discovering information not readily obtainable through more traditional methods of candidate research.  And hiring managers jumped into the fray, Googling their finalist candidates to get a better picture of their potential new hires.  Thankfully, through the efforts of legal counsel, privacy rights advocates, and background screening providers, we’ve jointly advised human resource professionals and security directors about the risks associated with being exposed to job candidates’ protected class information while viewing their social media posts and other publicly available online content.  We must respect candidates’ privacy and not allow race, religion, and other protected class information to bias hiring decisions.

Today, social media pre-employment screening and monitoring can be both EEOC and FCRA compliant when it’s obtained through a background screening provider such as Crimcheck.  Its information supplements criminal record-based background checks to help employers better understand who they are hiring and detect behavior that may be in violation of company values.  Are there risk factors, such as demonstrations of racism or intolerance, potentially illegal activity, potentially violent conduct, or sexually explicit material?  These workplace risks exist, whether employees are working on premise, using online work communication tools, or interacting on social media platforms.  Social media background checks reduce the risk of harassment claims, workplace violence, insider threats, negligent hiring, and reputational damage by helping to identify these behaviors before you hire.

Another consideration driving social media as a screening component is the widespread adoption of ban-the-box and Fair Chance ordinances.  As more employers consider hiring formerly incarcerated job applicants, criminal records such as marijuana possession and other convictions may be ignored if they are not deemed relevant to the position.  Social media screening provides a holistic view of the individual, including positive behavior and information that highlights their qualifications and character.

Click here to get your copy of our Definitive Guide to Social Media Screening eBook.

Review Your Screening Program

Last week, we discussed the ways in which companies are taking this time to review their current background screening programs.  It’s Spring Cleaning time and social media screening is one of the services more organizations are adding to their programs – helping staffing firms and HR teams see a clearer picture of their candidates.  Employees’ use of remote workforce tools that blur personal and professional lines, increased time on social media, and ban-the-box initiatives make social media background checks more important than ever.

What information obtained from social media is relevant to your company culture and values?  Your social media reports will focus on and inform you about only business relevant information while protecting your team from viewing protected class information.  Contact us to learn more about our social media solutions and other services that can help you gain a safe hiring advantage.

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