The Do's and Don'ts of employment background checks

Learn about the Do's and the Don'ts of Social Media Screening for Pre-employment.

The Do's and Don'ts of employment background checks

Imagine having a magic crystal ball that gives you a peek behind the professional curtains of potential employees - welcome to the world of social media background checks! Simply swap out “magic” for artificial intelligence, and you get efficient, fast background checks that have evolved beyond conventional methods to lend you a more comprehensive understanding of potential candidates.

Employers now use AI-powered tools such as Ferretly to gather information available on social media platforms to gain high-level insights into a candidate’s professional aptitude, character, and cultural fit. However, the utilization of social media in employment background checks must always be approached with caution and compliance, ensuring a balance between gathering valuable information and respecting candidates’ privacy. In this guide, we explore the pivotal dos and don’ts of executing employment background checks using social media.

The Dos

1. Develop a Clear Policy

Creating a structured, transparent policy is your first step to navigating social media checks effectively. This involves outlining the specific platforms to be reviewed, the types of information to be considered, and the manner of evaluation to ensure consistency. Having a clear policy not only streamlines the process but also instills confidence among candidates, reassuring them of an unbiased and equitable assessment.

2. Obtain Consent

Respect for candidates’ privacy begins with obtaining consent. Before delving into their social media narratives, seek permission to review publicly available content. This gesture promotes trust, underscores your ethical approach, and ensures candidates that their privacy is a top priority, laying the foundation for an open and respectful recruitment process.

3. Focus on Relevant Information

While social media platforms can be treasure troves of diverse information, discipline in focusing solely on job-relevant data is crucial. It’s about zeroing in on insights that offer a genuine reflection of the candidates’ professional acumen and cultural fit. Avoid personal or sensitive information, ensuring the assessment remains professional and objective.

4. Ensure Equal Treatment

Every candidate deserves a level playing field. Implementing the background check process uniformly ensures that assessments are free from bias and discrimination. It underscores your commitment to fairness and equality, enhancing your brand’s reputation as an ethical employer.

5. Document the Process

Transparency and accountability are bolstered by meticulous documentation. Record the steps undertaken, criteria evaluated, and decisions made during the social media check. This practice not only aids in internal reviews but also serves as a reassurance to candidates about the fairness and objectivity of the process.

The Don'ts

1. Avoid Personal Biases

In the colorful world of social media, it’s easy to be swayed by personal inclinations. However, it’s vital to wear a lens of objectivity. Avoid allowing personal biases to creep into your assessments; focus on information that directly correlates with the candidate’s ability to excel in the role and align with the organizational culture. Every candidate has a unique narrative; evaluate them on their merit and fit.

2. Respect Privacy

The private lives of candidates should remain just that – private. Avoid digging into areas that are not public or trying to access information that is clearly meant to be confidential. Respecting privacy settings and boundaries is a cardinal rule, essential to maintaining ethical standards and promoting a respectful hiring environment.

3. Don’t Overlook Legal Regulations

Amid the enthusiasm to gather insights, legal compliance should remain a steadfast focus. Familiarize yourself with legal regulations governing privacy, consent, and employment. These laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and respective state-specific statutes, serve as the North Star, guiding the ethical and legal conduct of social media background checks.

4. Avoid ‘Friend’ Requests to Candidates

Sending ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ requests to gain deeper access to a candidate’s profile can be seen as intrusive. Stick to publicly available information to respect their digital space. The goal is to glean insights without overstepping boundaries, ensuring the process remains both ethical and respectful.

5. Do Not Solely Rely on Social Media

While social media can provide a wealth of insights, it should complement, not replace, traditional background-checking methods. Comprehensive assessments include various data points, and social media is just one piece of the puzzle. Diversified approaches ensure a more balanced and holistic view of the candidate.

The Path Forward

With the digital and physical realms increasingly becoming intertwined, the insights gleaned from social media can be invaluable in the recruitment process. It offers employers and brands a broader, more nuanced perspective of potential candidates. However, this methodology should be balanced with a robust ethical framework to navigate the complexities of privacy and consent.


The use of social media in employment background checks is a powerful tool when employed ethically, legally, and judiciously. It not only aids employers in making informed decisions but also provides a platform for candidates to showcase their professional ethos, skills, and cultural alignments. Balancing the quest for information with respect for privacy, consent, and legal norms is not just a legal requirement but a cornerstone for fostering trust, equity, and respect in the employment process.

As we move further into the digital age, the need for clarity, fairness, and ethical consideration in social media background checks will only increase. Equip your organization with clear policies, ensure consent, focus on relevant information, and navigate this intricate terrain with a commitment to integrity and respect for every candidate’s digital dignity. In this balance, lies the key to unlocking the true potential of social media background checks in contemporary recruitment!

To learn more about Ferretly’s AI-Powered Social Media Screening solution, set up a demonstration today or reach out at

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