CareerBuilder Study Reveals Background Screening Trends in Use of Social Networking Sites

Nick Fishman

Careerbuilder just released an eye opening study that reveals one in five employers use Social Networking sites to help screen prospective employees.  We’ve certainly identified this practice in our 2009 Background Screening Trends to Follow study.  Followers of this blog don’t need to hear another diatribe about our opinions on this practice with respect to employment background checks.  Here are some other interesting stats gleaned from the 34% of employers who said that they had denied employment based on their findings from sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

  • 41% denied employment because of content posted about alcohol or drug use
  • 40% denied employment based on “inappropriate of provocative” pictures being posted
  • 29% denied employment because the candidate appeared to have poor communications skills

Please click here to view the complete study.

Here’s a question that no one has asked, but probably should.  Why would a company whose job it is to reveal information about job candidates be so strongly opposed to finding more information which can be helpful in making an informed hiring decision?

Here’s the answer.  Consumer Reporting Agency’s that are concerned about best practices don’t offer their services to trample on consumers’ rights or to expose their clients to unnecessary risk.  There is no way to verify the accuracy of the information that is posted on these sites, nor is there a way to confirm that the applicant actually posted such information.  Just look at the stats above.  Pictures can be modified by anyone these days.  If an employer found an objectionable picture, how can they make sure it wasn’t photoshopped?  I agree that admitted drug use should be of concern to employers, but how do they know who posted such information and if it’s true?  A Substance Abuse Test might be a more legally compliant and effective way to determine employment eligibility.  As far as communication skills are concerned, social networking sites are intended for just that: Social Networking.  How one communicates with friends and how they might do so at work are two entirely separate matters. None of this addresses the inherent risk of all types of discrimination claims that can arise or how such information can be evaluated consistently across the boards.

This all leads to one point.  While untested to date, we are going to see significant negligent hiring and discriminatory hiring practices claims arise from the use of these sites when making employment decisions.  It is our job as a CRA to reduce our clients’ exposure to risk, not increase it.

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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