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Social Media Screening and Monitoring for Human Resources: The Comprehensive Guide

By: Adiba Ashraf | 6 mins read |
With 60% of the global population now using social media, it is more important than ever for companies to leverage these platforms and adapt. Not only in the sense of using social media to connect and engage with customers, but also as a part of the candidate screening process to ensure a great cultural fit. Social media screening provides valuable insights into a candidate’s digital footprint, their interests, and even their personality, which enables organizations to make better informed hiring decisions by identifying the candidates who best align with company values.  Yet, it is crucial to implement these practices ethically and fairly to ensure an unbiased candidate selection process. This guide will go over why social media screening is so important in the hiring process, the legal considerations, best practices, and more. 

Benefits of social media screening in human resources

Social media screening and monitoring has quickly become an essential part of modern hiring practices. Although many HR professionals are hesitant to talk about this practice publicly, it is still very much a real part of the candidate screening process in the digital era – with good reason. Social media screening offers a range of benefits for companies and here’s why it has become an industry standard for HR.

Protecting company reputation

Employees' actions can impact a company's reputation, intentionally or unintentionally. Inappropriate social media posts can spread like wildfire, and it usually doesn’t take very long for internet sleuths to find out who posted it and who they work for. This association can harm the brand's image and reputation, even if the employee wasn’t at work when they posted it! In some cases, a bad social media post from an employee can cause a flood of negative, 1-star reviews from people across the world. Screening employees' social media profiles is an effective way for brands to avoid public relation disasters. By identifying inappropriate or offensive content ahead of time in someone’s social media history, companies can decide whether to hire them or not, and this can save them from the reputational damage of a past post from years ago coming back to haunt them.

Ensuring cultural fit

People use their resumes to attract employers. While resumes can provide an idea of the candidate’s professional history and experience, they don’t tell you what the person is actually like to work with or whether they’d adjust well to the company culture. But cultural fit is critical for any candidate’s long-term success. Hiring the wrong person can affect the entire team, impacting morale, productivity, and in serious cases, it can even create a toxic work environment. Social media screening offers insight into someone's personality, which helps HR gauge whether the candidate will get along with their team.

Mitigating risks

Screening job candidates' social media presence is crucial to avoid negative consequences for companies. Hiring individuals with a history of posting inappropriate or controversial content on social media can lead to financial losses, legal liability, and significant damage to the company's reputation.  Social media screening helps employers be proactive in identifying potential risks and making informed hiring decisions, promoting a safer and more productive work environment, thereby mitigating the risks associated with hiring. Some of the biggest red flags and warning signs include discriminatory behavior, hate speech, or illegal activities. 

Legal and ethical considerations

Labor laws related to the use of social media screening vary based on the location and jurisdiction, so it is best to keep track of the most recent regulations regarding this assessment practice.  Typically, employers must obtain consent from candidates to screen their social media history during the hiring process. Employers must also inform candidates about the criteria for assessing their social media activity.  As companies must protect and respect their employees’ and job candidates’ rights to privacy, they should only use information relevant to the screening process. Failing to comply with local laws regarding social media screening can lead to adverse legal repercussions for the company. 

Best practices for conducting social media screening

The following best practices have helped many companies incorporate social media screening into their HR management process. 

Establish clear policies and guidelines

Creating a policy that outlines the scope and purpose of social media screening makes the screening process more efficient. This way, the HR team immediately knows what to look for in candidates' social media posts. It also helps remove unconscious bias from the hiring process as the personal values of HR staff can sometimes unknowingly influence their perception of candidates based on more personal and subjective aspects of the candidates’ personality displayed across social media. The policy can also ensure that the HR team exercises caution when screening social media and obtains explicit consent from candidates or employees before doing so.

Focus on job-related information

Employers might check candidates' social media for both inappropriate content and relevant posts about previous employment.  However, HR should focus on job-related content such as negative opinions about past employers or colleagues, the sharing of confidential information, and cultural fit. Candidates who have displayed such behavior in the past may not be selected as it raises concerns about their future conduct with new employers.

Document the process

Maintaining a record of the social media screening of prospective employees is essential for transparency and compliance with labor and confidentiality laws. If there is ever a dispute about the company’s selection process in the future, the record can help resolve the issue quickly and it can also ensure that HR teams follow established social media screening guidelines.

Social media monitoring and listening applications for HR 

Social media screening and monitoring is not only beneficial in the hiring process as many HR professionals suggest, but also for monitoring current employees and partners on an ongoing basis across social media to ensure compliance with company policies and regulations. However, manual social media monitoring can cost time and resources. For larger enterprise companies, its simply not scalable. Thankfully, technology can help solve this problem. Solutions like Viral Nation_Secure™, for instance, can help companies stay on top of what their employees and other audiences  are saying about them while mitigating reputational risks in real-time, helping companies be proactive in managing their company reputation. 

Using sentiment analysis in social media screening 

There are numerous facets within social media screening, including sentiment analysis, which can give HR professionals a quick overview of what types of posts a specific individual makes frequently.

Sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis helps determine whether the emotional tone of online posts are  negative, positive, or neutral. It not only provides insight into the conversation surrounding the company, but it can also give recruiters a deeper look into a candidate’s personality and how well they might fit into the company if hired. For example, if sentiment analysis finds that a candidate makes a lot of negative, extreme or inappropriate social posts, that could indicate the candidate has beliefs or habits not aligned with corporate values, resulting in a negative impact on the company if they were hired. On the other hand, if sentiment analysis finds the candidate's posts are mostly neutral or positive, this indicates the candidate might be easier to work with and a better fit for the company culture. Some social media screening solutions, like Viral Nation_Secure™, can even analyze the sentiment of a user’s comments and tagged posts, providing additional insight into their online behavior.

Implementing training and awareness programs for employees 

As previously noted, current employees carry the power to damage their company's reputation but this is preventable by investing in employee training and awareness programs regarding social media use. 

Social media clean up 

Companies can equip employees with strategies to perform social media clean-up. Cleaning up social media begins with auditing each social media profile that the person owns — which can be time-consuming since people use multiple platforms. Employees can scan for harmful content on their accounts and ensure they do not miss anything. It is critical to highlight the benefits of maintaining a professional presence online, including supporting the person's future career development.

Brand safety 

Employees often do not think that their social media posts can hurt their employer's brand. Therefore, employers should seek to educate their workers about brand safety — a set of measures to protect their brand reputation online.  Many companies have established a code of conduct for online activities. To ensure compliance, companies are implementing clear communication of these rules to their employees. For instance, employees who violate the rules might receive a penalty or warning from the company.

Preparing for the future of social media screening in human resources

Social media is a dynamic space, constantly evolving with new features and platforms. HR needs to stay updated on these changes to align its practices accordingly. It's also essential for companies to keep up with the latest trends in social listening for valuable insights into how social media and HR practices are evolving. Hence, it is important that employees are well-trained to adapt to new social media screening technologies quickly.  HR must keep up with the constant change to align its practices with the latest development in the industry. It's all about staying ahead of the game and embracing the changes, after all.
_About the author
Adiba Ashraf

As the Product Marketing Manager for Viral Nation_Secure, Adiba is an expert in brand safety who specializes in B2B SaaS technology and AI-powered social media solutions. With her deep understanding of the complex relationship between social media and brand reputation, she is an adept communicator and dedicated problem solver who is passionate about protecting brands online. Outside of work, she enjoys reading non-fiction books, traveling, and making TikTok recipes.