Background checks have long been a part of the process of hiring new employees and with the rise of the internet the prevalence of employers Googling their candidates has grown. Now, a start-up is offering to perform these checks for you and much more thoroughly, delving into the social media past of these job seekers.
Social Intelligence offer to scrape the online footprint of prospective employees and give you a report of all their relevant activity. Employers understandably want to know as much as possible about the people they will be hiring to make sure they’re suitable for the job and don’t have a hidden past that could potentially damage the company. Additionally, Social Intelligence claim that by using them instead of personally researching the candidates you avoid the legal potholes such as discrimination based upon race or belief. Social Intelligence also claim that it is to the benefit of candidatesthat they undergo this screening since, as well as flagging up any misdemeanor they find, they also report on any good deeds the candidate is found to have done.
First of all, I don’t think there’s much mileage in the claim that checking someone’s history through social media is beneficial to the candidate. It seems fairly unlikely that a candidate would neglect to mention an achievement of there’s if it might increase their chances of landing an interview. Even if most people don’t display the same self-promotional flair as the contenders on the Apprentice, it’s hard to believe that anyone would omit something they’ve done due to modesty.
Is It Right?
The main issue here, obviously, is whether it is right for companies to check the background of the candidates via social & online media. SI Chief Exec. Max Drucker points out that the only information they collect is that which is publicly available online so anyone could hypothetically find out what SI are providing. However, there are things that are public and things that a candidate would be happy for prospective employers to see. The mere fact that something is in the public arena doesn’t mean it is right for it to be seen by everyone. There is the obvious argument that if a person didn’t want something to be seen by someone they should have never made it public and there is some practical truth to this. However, there is still, despite growing privacy concerns, a belief that even in an arena that is technically public you can act in a private manner since no one will actively search for things you’ve done. By actively searching for ‘incriminating’ activity companies take us another step closer to a world wide web where no one feels free.
Aside from the admittedly subjective moral issue there is a practical reason why companies should not do this. Much like the cliché of the health and safety form, digging up dirt on people will just mean needless restrictions are made. Drucker gives the example that a woman was not offered a job because a nude photo of her was found online. No further details are given on the job or where the photo was found so it seems as if the mere fact that a nude photo was found was enough to warrant discounting her from the application process. Ignoring the fact that the photo could have been put online by someone else, I don’t think it is clear-cut to say someone isn’t suitable because there is a nude photo of her online, aside from certain jobs of course.
There is a real danger that ideal candidates will be passed over for irrelevant reasons, just because they have done certain things in their past which scare a certain employer. Far from putting you at an advantage over your competitors, as Social Intelligence claim, it may make you err on the side of caution and miss out on the best employees simply because a few mishaps have been documented online.
How would you feel about having your social media checked? As an employer, would you want to run a similar check on prospective employees?
background check, social intelligence, social media monitoring