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Social Media Background Check

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Social media background checks are something that is becoming more commonplace in today’s world. However, there are some concerns surrounding social media background checks that might outweigh the benefits of these searches in certain circumstances. 

Our article discusses what exactly social media background checks consist of, who typically performs these checks, and some benefits and concerns that you should keep in mind regarding these searches.

What Are Social Media Background Checks?

Social media background checks are a review of a potential employee or individual’s social media accounts and general online presence to ensure that they are a good fit for a company, organization, or public position. 

Social media background checks are often used to confirm an individual’s identity and information they may have provided on a job application in addition to tracing digital activity for any signs of red flags.

Keep in mind that red flags on a profile may be highly subjective based on the individual’s preferences or the company that is completing the check, and many variables are eligible to be evaluated as part of an individual’s social media. 

These variables, in addition to privacy concerns, are what tend to make social media background checks more controversial than a regular background check. 

Who Might Perform a Social Media Background Check?

Social media background checks are typically performed by companies vetting potential employees, individuals that are evaluating a person’s eligibility for a certain position, promotion, or opportunity, or even the general public that wants to double-check the identity and online presence of a neighbor, roommate, or potential partner. 

How Social Media Background Checks Can Help

Though social media background checks might be controversial to some, they can provide certain benefits and vital information to the individuals completing the checks.

Evaluating Company Culture Fits

One of the most common uses of a social media background check is evaluating whether or not a potential employee will fit in with company culture and is likely to uphold the company’s values outside of the office. Reviewing an individual’s social media can also give employers a sense of how an individual conducts themselves, the contributions they might make to the workplace culture, and their general disposition.

Identifying Red Flags

No matter whether you are vetting a potential employee, a roommate, or a neighbor, social media can help to identify red flags. 

Social media profiles, online comments, and a web presence that is full of racist comments, derogatory remarks, overt sexual behavior, violent language or behavior, or illegal activities may indicate that the person in question is not someone you want to hire or form close relationships with. 

Not hiring someone or interacting with an individual that shows these warning signs is often a step in the right direction toward workplace safety and protecting yourself from certain individuals. 

Maintaining Company Standards

Certain companies, organizations, and employers have high standards that they expect their employees to meet and public images that are necessary to maintain. 

In these cases, social media background checks are conducted to ensure that an individual’s online behavior or social media posts won’t reflect badly on the company or organization if the person in question is brought on board.

Social Media Background Check Concerns

Though there are benefits to social media background checks, there are also a few concerns that are commonly brought up when these checks are considered. Review the below concerns to determine if the cons outweigh the pros of conducting a social media background check.


Social media background checks can be time-consuming, especially if you are conducting these searches in-house and delegating members of the hiring committee to conduct this process. 

If you are an individual searching for information about a neighbor, roommate, or potential partner, you can also spend a lot of time figuring out which social media websites the person has accounts with, accessing their information, and following their online presence. 

For these reasons, social media background checks are a lot more time-consuming than outsourcing a regular background check to a third-party company.

False Information

Oftentimes, individuals will create social media accounts using false information, jokes, or alternate information that doesn’t match up with what you have been told in person or seen on an application. 

False information on social media accounts makes it hard to double-check a person’s eligibility or even verify their identity and any warning signs that might typically be displayed on an online profile. It also discounts making decisions about company standards and culture, as you can’t determine these things using false information.

Duplicate information is also a concern, as many individuals share names and attributes. If you are looking at the wrong person’s social media, you may make incorrect and unfair assumptions about a person based on what you see.

Privacy and Ethical Concerns

All background checks, social media or not, need to be completed in an ethical way that adheres to federal and state-level regulations. 

This is mostly a concern with employers, as companies that look up an individual’s social media without informing them and then make hiring decisions based on what they see can be illegal in certain circumstances.

Evaluating an individual’s social media and online presence in regard to the hiring process may also be considered an invasion of privacy and not the most ethical thing to do, which can raise questions about fair and equal hiring practices.

Negative Company Reputation

A company that requires potential employees to submit social media background checks or even uphold certain company standards when they are off the clock may gain a negative reputation. 

Many individuals believe that an employee should have privacy when they are not at work and, barring egregious online postings, shouldn’t be evaluated for their time on social media. 

Companies that complete social media background checks might be seen as invasive, controlling, or strict, something that creates problems with a brand or company’s public image over time.

Conducting Social Media Background Checks the Right Way

If you’ve decided to conduct a social media background check, there are a few things to keep in mind as you complete this process.

  • A people lookup search is a great way to locate social media account information on a neighbor, roommate, potential partner, or other individuals you are vetting the safety of. However, these tools are not suitable for employers to evaluate potential employees.
  • Companies looking to conduct social media background checks should make sure that all checks adhere to federal and state regulations. Employers may also need to inform the individual in question that their social media will be checked depending on disclosure and authorization laws.
  • Always have an idea of what you are looking for when you start a social media background check or you could be lost for hours researching and following online presences. Make a list of things you want to identify and do your best to stick to for the best results.
  • Keep in mind that some social media websites inform the individual that you have viewed their profile. If you want to keep your search activity private, then you may want to avoid websites that offer this feature.

If you are completing social media background checks as a company or employer, make sure that you adhere to all hiring and disclosure restrictions in your state and at the federal level. You should also not utilize the following to make hiring decisions, as this violates discrimination laws according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability statues
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Citizenship status
  • Pregnancy or children

Be Mindful When Performing Social Media Background Checks

As long as you keep in mind the pros and cons of social media background checks and make sure that you properly use any of the information you find, you should be able to complete this process and gain any necessary information with ease.

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Christopher Stern
Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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