Skip to the main content.

3 min read

Why Social Media Screening is Vital to Mitigating Risk and Building a Quality Workforce

As the digital era evolves, social media grows in popularity as a recreational and professional online activity. Personal social media presence and employee posting of online content can result in both positive benefits and negative consequences for employers. According to DemandSage, “there are 4.95 billion social media users worldwide in 2024,” and this number is expected to reach 5.85 billion by 2027. The top social sites as of 2024 include Facebook (3.05 billion), WhatsApp/YouTube (2.7 billion), and Instagram (2.5 billion). Inclusion of social media screening in pre-hire background checks is proven effective in safeguarding business reputation and in identifying candidate behaviors that pose an increased risk of harm to co-workers, the company, or its clients. However, social media content can often be easily accessed, there are multiple reasons why employers should leave searching a candidate’s social media and online presence to an expert third-party resource like AccuSourceHR™ Workforce Solutions.

Many states have enacted privacy legislation limiting access to password-protected, private social media activity; therefore, searches should be limited to publicly available data. A candidate should never be asked to share usernames or passwords for private online profiles and accounts. Nevertheless, many users disclose a wealth of public content on their social media pages, through blogging, and on sites open to public comment. A candidate’s online content may reveal information not typically identified in a standard background check. Patterns of racism, intolerance, hate speech, sexism, substance abuse, disparaging remarks regarding a current or former employer, online bullying, and inappropriate behavior. This type of behavioral feedback, when provided in a legally compliant format, can aid employers in ensuring candidates are a good cultural fit for their organization, and do not appear to have a history of beliefs or behaviors increasing organizational risk.

One caution, while personal social media pages and online blogging/commentary can provide insight into societal viewpoints, professional presence, and patterns of undesirable behavior, online content associated with a candidate can also reveal information like familial status, sexual orientation, age, gender identity, race/national origin and religious affiliation protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While few human resource professionals would knowingly consider this type of data in an employment decision, viewing content related to protected class status could result in unconscious bias. For example, a recruiter directly views a candidate’s public Facebook page and learns that the candidate just announced she is pregnant to her friends and family. The recruiter decides not to move forward with the candidate for another reason, yet he would have a hard time defending his decision was not impacted in part by the candidate’s familial status and thus acted in a discriminatory manner because he became personally aware of this status during the hiring process. Quality third-party providers of social media screening remove all protected class details from final screening reports to ensure employer end-users only receive data actionable in an employment decision based upon applicable federal, state, and local laws.


Benefits of Social Media

Social media screening popularity is on the rise, thanks in part to numerous high-profile reputation-damaging public news stories highlighting instances where an employee’s adverse behavior and the ensuing consequences could have been easily predicted and prevented had the employment background screen included a social media search. According to a recent survey, 90 percent of employers think social media screening is essential when evaluating candidates. The survey also stated, “Most HR professionals (79%) surveyed have denied a candidate based on their social media profiles.”

Social media screening provides a deeper look into common candidate behavior, often not easily discernable in criminal history search results or from employment verifications and professional references. For example, a candidate exhibits a history of posting negative, slanderous comments involving their employer or displays racial or gender-based intolerance toward specific groups of people on their social media pages. Either of these behaviors could cause significant harm to a new employer and/or their employees and customers. Unless either negative behavior resulted in criminal or civil court action or the former employer shares specific feedback when employment is verified, it is highly unlikely a prospective employer will be alerted to the employment risk until they directly experience a challenge and any opportunities for damage mitigation have passed. For this reason, employers should consider adding social media to their standard search scope to gain better insight into any risks highlighted by the candidate's online behavior before engaging in an employment relationship where reasonably foreseeable harm occurs.


Final Note

Results from social media searches can reveal valuable information to help reduce hiring and employment risk, especially when conducted by a qualified, compliance-savvy Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). However, if adverse findings are identified, employers should follow EEOC guidance, federal regulations, and state and local legal requirements in utilizing the information in an employment decision. Often, employers are required to consider factors including the length of time since posting negative content, the candidate’s overall employment history since the post, and how the content and/or the candidate’s associated beliefs and behaviors could impact their intended job duties or organizational culture. It is best practice to seek legal advice before engaging in an adverse employment decision based solely on information discovered through a social media screen, as direct counsel can evaluate unique considerations specific to each situation prior to providing expert guidance.

AccuSourceHR™ is a PBSA-accredited national leader in background screening, occupational health services, and substance abuse testing. Our passion is creating outstanding customer experiences and leading organizations to successful, efficient hiring and onboarding processes. We offer expansive screening services in over 230 countries and territories worldwide to make hiring easier for businesses and their human resource teams. Our social media screening services include searches across all major platforms, using AI-powered technology and human expertise to identify behavior patterns to help you make more informed decisions. AccuSourceHR's social media reports also mask or remove protected class details to reduce legal risks for employers.

Want to learn more about how social media screening can minimize legal threats, reduce negative workplace behavior, and save time? Email us at for a complimentary program evaluation.