Social media as part of background checking (Part 1)

Right now the Australian online recruitment community have started some very health debate/discussion about the concept of using the content from social media as part of background checking. All started by Riges Younan from Peerlo*.

Most of the discussion from the agency perspective is focusing around the ethics of using what is in the public domain to access candidates. There is a sub-discussion on disclosure and relevance.

In my recent post on social recruiting I highlighted social background checking as one of the 18 use cases. So I thought I would chime in on the discussion, not to mention I have a comment to answer on that post as well. But I am going to try and bring some facts into the discussion as well, because so far everyone is talking opinion, which for me is not enough.

Also before I get going most of the posts and comments have been from the point of view of agencies using the information, not employers, again something I want to expand upon.

A final note this post begins to lay out a foundation, part two looks at the cultural fit, part three legal issues and part four will pull it all together. I split this up as a single post would have been huge.

On with the main program.

Social media provides hiring managers a unique insight into candidates before they join the organisation. Now I agree last Saturday night’s drunken party photos have no place in the recruitment process, well maybe they do let’s see where this goes.

Social Media

Let us start with a definition on what is social media.

From Wikipedia social:

The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary

From Wikipedia media:

In communication, media (singular medium) are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data

In today’s context social media is about using internet technologies so living organisms, humans in our case, can interact in a manner to create channels for the storage and delivery of information or data.

It is more than just Facebook, or Twitter it defines everything we do online where our interactions create and store data that is either in the public domain or being shared privately amongst a closed group.

Background Checking

With the risk of being labeled biased for my sources I want to look at Wikipedia for my definition of background checking. Only because it provides a good source of words, which saves me from making them up.

These checks are often used by employers as a means of objectively evaluating a job candidate’s qualifications, character, fitness, and to identify potential hiring risks for safety and security reasons

The one area I want to look at with regard to using social media as part of your background checking process is evaluation of character. I am going to acknowledge here that the objectivity of any assessment is a key point but that will be looked at in future posts.

Some elements of character are very easy to assess based on someone’s digital footprints. For example being president of the local football team, volunteering to support programs around poverty, giving back to your industry through thought leadership etc. Social media tools all provide a unique way of gaining this insight.

A example (or two) the amazing Jasmin Tragas*, aka Wonderwebby, and her work to help women in developing nations receive investment funding.  Without social media very few people would ever know about all of the things Jasmin does. Now I’ll admit that she might put her investment fund activities on her resume, but even her LinkedIn profile doesn’t really do the project justice.

Next up Gavin Heaton, and his Age of Conversation project which donates 100% of the proceeds to the Children’s charity Variety, again no LinkedIn profile does this justice.

I could go one but I hope you get the point social media, use correctly, can provide you with a very unique insight into a potential employee’s character.

Now another method of assessing character is through a process HR calls cultural fit, we will look at this in part 2.

(* Disclosure: Peerlo is a client of Inspecht, and Jasmin spoke at the Inspecht HR Futures conference last year.)

One thought on “Social media as part of background checking (Part 1)

  1. Hi Michael. Thanks for the shout out. I have to say, there are so many people doing amazing things – helping humanity in so many ways – that I’m not sure my little social media fundraiser really merits a note in my resume 🙂 But it really showed me that you can use these tools to make a difference through our connections with people around the world.

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