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    EmployeeScreenIQ recently released our annual background screening trends survey: “Threading The Needle: Employment Background Screening in an Age of Increased Litigation and Legislation.” More than 650 HR professionals from across the country, in organizations large and small, shared their thoughtful (and sometimes surprising) insights on everything from falsified resumes to the phenomenon of Facebook in our revealing 20-page report.  Listed below is one of our Top Findings which deals with how widespread the use of Social Media background checks.

    Social Networking Websites:

    As with online universities, employers are split regarding their use of social networking websites as part of the background screening process. 48% of respondents consult these sites as part of their screening process (only 9% say they always consult this sites), while 52% say they never do. These results show how divided employers are when it comes to this relatively new source of background information. The findings also refute a somewhat common perception that all employers spend their time pouring over the online activities of workers and potential new hires. Frankly, most HR departments don’t have the time or resources to do so even if they wanted to.

    While the instant gratification of a Google search is undeniable, employers who answer “never” may be taking into account the inherent risk of uncovering “protected class” information that could lead to future legal problems if the candidate is not selected. Age, race, and religious affiliation are all characteristics that are readily available in social media sources. And then there is the issue of accuracy of the data, which is always at issue with the self-generated content that prevails on social networking sites.

    Despite the potential they might hold, social networking websites are not yet widely accepted as trusted background-checking resource. We anticipate that the trend of those who utilize these sites as a screening tool will only increase in the coming years. It will be interesting to see whether the percentage of those who regularly use these sites increases in future surveys.

    Important Note: We just met with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and learned that they will be looking very closely at this issue in 2012.  In fact, on the screening side both social media and the use of mobile apps to conduct background checks are their two biggest priorities.

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