Weiner Exposed: Importance of Social Media Background Checks

social media background checksAre you kidding me Anthony Weiner?  Do you have a brain or an ounce of integrity? By now you have all seen the news footage of Congressman Anthony Weiner.  First, he was lashing out at the media and telling us that his Twitter account had been hacked and somebody had sent a lewd photo of his…  Well let’s just say it was a photo of Weiner.

Now, I can tell you that I am a little skeptical when I see a politician step in front of the media and claim innocence from a sex scandal.  So my radar shot up when I saw the initial footage and the congressman’s angry outbursts at the media.  I will also be the first to admit that I did not think anybody would be stupid enough to send a picture of his privates to an unknown person….on Twitter of all places. 

If you had told me email, sure I would have believed that.  But Twitter?

And now we get to see all the bare-chested, jockey-shorts photos (thank goodness we are spared the “key” photograph) he tweeted.

So the big question is….

Does this incident change your mind on the importance of social media background checks?

I am sure we all agree that stupid is not a crime.  Good thing with all the jail overcrowding.

However, how would you react to this information if Congressman Weiner was an applicant at your organization?  Sure, I know there are some of you that will say that he did not commit a crime so what is the big deal?

The big deal to me is I hire people that have character and integrity.  If you are married and sending nude photographs of yourself through Twitter I think you are a hypocrite and lack character and integrity.  How can I trust you as an employer?  You certainly have a problem with commitment.

I can also tell you that there is more to a background check than a criminal record search.  If a criminal record check is the sum total of your background screening process then you will be hiring misfits and unsuitables.

So the big question with social media background checks is being able to determine authenticity on the world wide web.  Congressman Wiener did us a favor by providing a photo that said “me.”  Thank you.

background checks

Social media background checks certainly give us a view of a person we would never receive from a resume, applicant or criminal background check.

 However, these checks can be a legal minefield so join us for a FREE webinar on Social Media Background Checks Policy Development.

What is the craziest thing you have uncovered (maybe not the right word for this article) in a social media background check?

Social Media Background Checks: Clever Tool or Legal Minefield?

social media background checksOk, I need you to be honest with me.   How many of you have narrowed your hiring decision to a single candidate and then found yourself bouncing from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter and the blogosphere?  A Google search of the applicant’s name? Really?  Come on, the internet is the Wild West 2.0.  A wide open, unregulated and unfiltered expanse.


What does that look like?

  • 160+ Million Blogs
  • 80K New Blogs Daily
  • 75 Million Tweeters
  • 550 Million Facebook Users
  • 67 Million MySpace Users
  • 41 Million Linkedin Users
  • 490 Million YouTube Users
  • 92 Billion YouTube Views Per Month

Wow!  An organization would be crazy not to be peaking in the social media window.

Don’t you agree?  The benefits of social media background checks are obvious:

  • Documents Due Diligence:  Reduces negligent hiring and negligent retention.
  • Literally Look Inside Applicant’s Head:  We get an unvarnished look inside the head of an applicant that reveals their thoughts, opinions, hobbies and interests.
  • Unfiltered Character Check:  People have applied the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” principal to social media.  Nobody is looking but friends, right?  Look at this recent Tweet I found:

twitter background checkWould you like to know if your youth pastor is posting nude photos online?  Do you need any more examples to confirm we should make social media checks a part of our screening process?

Well, hold on cowboy.  Let’s jump on the other side of the fence and take a look around and see what the employment attorneys are saying.

Are there any pitfalls to social media screening?  Yeah, and they can have serious legal consequences.

  • Too Much Information:  May contain photos of applicant that reveals age, race or a disability; or postings might be related to personal religious beliefs or ethnicity.  You may be learning and seeing information that cannot be the legal basis for a hiring decision.
  • Legal Implications of Social Media Screening:
    • Discrimination:  If a decision to not hire is based on race, ethnicity, nationality, marital status, religious preference or age.
    • Privacy:  Yes, even on the internet there can be a reasonable expectation of privacy since most social media sites require “friending” for access.
    • Authenticity:  This could be a huge obstacle with common and even not so common names.  How do you know the social media sites belong to your applicants?  There are many, many people with the same names.  Google yourself.
    • Recent Social Media Lawsuits:
      • Cisco Systems sued after one of their attorney’s blogged about 2 opposing lawyers who had sued Cisco.
      • Georgia School Dist. sued after they terminated a teacher who had a photo of herself drinking a glass of wine on her Facebook page.  It was a vacation photo from Italy.
      • NJ Restaurant sued after firing 2 employees for negative postings about the restaurant on their MySpace pages.

So where does that leave us?

I think we find ourselves in a “danged if we do, danged if we don’t” crossroads and we need to make an educated decision how to proceed.  No doubt there is a ton of information in social media that could be critical to a hiring decision; however, it is a legal minefield that requires a detailed social media policy.

We also have to understand savvy applicants will have a separate identity online.  Clear does not always mean clean.  No mentions in social media could be a red flag.

The bottom line is if you decide to conduct social media background checks, you should not be using your hiring personnel to do the check.  The information must be filtered by somebody outside of the hiring process to ensure hiring teams are not seeing information they are not allowed to see.

What I can tell you is that reputable background screening firms will not be providing social media background checks in the near future.  Why?  Because the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires us to provide accurate information.  This is challenging when determining identity and authenticity is difficult.   And verifying information in a blog post or Facebook page can be impossible.  How do we know this is not cyber slamming against our applicant?

Ok, let’s take a deep breath and exhale.   We may not be able to provide these checks for you, but we can provide detailed training & guidance.

Join us on June 15, 2011 at 2PM EST as our Attorney Steve Koers facilitates a FREE webinar on:  Social Media Background Checks Policy Development

Did you catch that?  An attorney working for FREE.  Better sign up before he changes his mind.

Your Turn:

Are you conducting Social Media Background Checks?  Have you denied hiring an applicant because of social media postings?