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Social Media Screening Becoming Mainstream

Updated: Jan 27

According to the Professional Background Screeners Association (PBSA) more than 95% of employers use background checks to vet their candidates pre-hire. However, traditional background screening methods including criminal checks, credit, employment verification, and drug screenings fail to address many of the risks posed by employees – especially as it relates to their online behavior which could have an outsized impact including damage to brand, culture, and employee safety.


Consider the following potential risks:


1. Lack of cultural fit, high turnover

2. Toxic employees including sexual harassment and bullying

3. Employee mental issues and overall wellbeing

4. Insider threats including intellectual property leakage

5. Risky behaviors including alcohol, drug use, and threats of violence


There are numerous real-world examples including the Virgin Atlantic incident in 2008 where 13 cabin crew members were fired after they made candid comments on Facebook about the airline, its passengers, and planes. In 2013, there was the PR executive at IAC that tweeted an insensitive, racist joke about going to Africa and potentially getting AIDS and who was subsequently fired. And in 2017, Randy Stair shot his coworkers and himself at a Pennsylvania Weis Market after posting threatening remarks and pictures on Twitter. The examples are virtually endless.


Existing screening approaches fail to address the above risks and answer key questions such as, is this employee a good fit with our team, how have they spoken about past employers publicly, and how do they treat others? What is needed is a modern approach that helps identify these risks to the organization for both pre-employment as well as continuous screening for existing employees. This is where social media background checks can play a crucial role in reducing risk.


There has been an explosion of defamation cases, harassment, discrimination, workplace violence, and more over the past decade. What your employees say online could make you liable. The damage to your organization’s reputation can often lead to lost customers, revenues, and employees. When you consider these risks along with the costs of high turnover and toxic employees' effect on your team’s morale, an organization that chooses to forego social media checks is rolling the dice on new hires.


When we consider the costs of turnover and factoring in indirect costs such as recruiting, training, reduced morale, and productivity these costs can exceed $240K per employee according to SHRM.

Beyond just the costs, organizations have a duty to ensure the wellbeing of their employees. Many studies have been done in the past few years showing linkages between the amount of social media use and anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and acts of violence toward employees. When we consider this along with the massive increase in social media use and its outsized impact on the organization, corporations should immediately consider adding social media screening for all of their new hires and employees.