Leveraging Social Media in the Recruitment Process

Social Media in Recruiting

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers say they search social networking sites to research job candidates, and of those, 57% said they’ve found content on those networks that caused them not to hire candidates. Recruiters have long understood the value that this social media information can bring to their understanding of job candidates – but Googling for that kind of data on your own, as a Hiring Manager, is both time-consuming and potentially illegal. So, what’s a recruiter to do? Today’s guest, Bianca Lager, President of Social Intelligence shares with us how we can all leverage social media in the recruitment process. Here, she explains:

  • How social media screening can complement background checks;
  • Why successful social media screenings go above and beyond "The Top Five";
  • The legal issues involved in social media screenings; and
  • How bias can negatively impact social media screenings.

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Social Media In Recruiting

  • The amount of information that can be found on social media both personally and professionally is almost limitless. 
  • As an employer or an HR professional, it is important to know what you should look at, what you can and cannot legally look at, and what boundaries exist within the social media realm when it comes to utilizing social media in recruiting new talent. 


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Social Media Screening vs. Background Checks

  • Companies that engage in social media recruiting should still conduct background checks if necessary. 
  • Even though there can be even more information than necessary online, background checks are still a good compliment to the use of social media in recruiting.
  • There are legal rules and regulations that go along with social media screening just as there are for criminal background checks and credit checks.
  • Companies that already conduct background checks can also add social media screening to their strategy as just another valuable piece of information to gain more knowledge about a candidate.

Defining Social Media

  • There is more to social media than just the “Top 5” sites -  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest.
  • Social Intelligence takes a top-down approach to social media screenings, starting with the “Top 5”, but including other websites that can provide insight into candidates - things like Amazon Wishlists, blogs, and phone apps, all can provide information about a candidate. 
  • For recruiters, measuring a candidate's online presence can be a daunting task with an overwhelming amount of information to go through, or a simple one with very little information to go through - it all depends on how active and social the candidate is online. 
  • On average, people have about 4-6 publicly accessible profiles online.

Candidates’ Social Media Awareness

  • Today, most candidates are aware of their social media presence and the impact it may have on their professional life.
    • On the same note, most people are also aware of how easy it is to search for someone in particular online and more often than not, find a profile or some type of information about that person. 
  • The way that social media has shaped society, there are surely growing concerns among working professionals that their online presence can negatively impact their job. 
  • For employers, there need to be boundaries on what social media information is fair game to bring into the workplace. 
    • This ensures that there is a “happy medium” between the safety and comfort of employees/candidates and the concern and image of the employer.

In-House Or Third-Party?

Legal Parameters

  • Employers must be wary of the information they are gathering when simply pulling up a candidate’s Facebook or Twitter page, because that information may be far outside what is applicable to the hiring process. 
    • Things like the church someone attends, their disability status, etc. are not within the bounds of necessary information and if that information is used in a certain manner, discriminatory issues could arise. 
  • Obviously there is not necessarily any governing body over what you can and cannot view online about someone, so employers need to use their best judgment in determining what information is truly important and what information should be ignored.
  • Social media screenings without a set of consistent criteria creates narratives about candidates that may or may not be relevant, ethical or correct.
  • Social Media screening is most often a risk assessment, so any information that does not pose a risk to the company or other employees should not be considered in the hiring of a candidate. 
  • Beyond these strategies, there is a legal process that must be followed in order to use information gathered on social media in recruiting. 
    • Employers must get the appropriate authorizations and disclosures
    • Employers must also follow a pre-adverse action process and let candidates know that their social media report was taken into consideration in the hiring process.
    • Employers must give candidates the ability to dispute any decisions that may have stemmed from their social media identity.
  • Candidate fairness is a vital part of the process.
  • There are even 26 different states that have laws about how an employer can access an employee’s or candidate’s social media information. 

The Manpower Needed For Social Media In Recruiting

  • There are so many different corners of the internet that it can be extremely difficult to get a full scope of someone’s online presence. 
  • Recruiters need to manage how many people they have actively searching for these more obscure social media sources to ensure that time is not being wasted.


  • Bias is inherently going to be an issue when a recruiter is scrubbing online for information on a candidate. The key is to limit the amount of bias that takes place to protect the process, employer, and candidate.
  • The healthiest and most productive way to mitigate the effects bias can have on social media screening is to create a healthy distance from the potential for human error and judgement of the direct employer.
    • This is where outsourcing the process can really play an essential role in the process.
    • A third-party company has no inherent biases and is not directly related to the employer in any way, ensuring that very little bias will affect the search.
  • Leaders of companies have started to become involved in this area of the social media screening process.
    • Ms. Lager has noticed that after her company conducts a search for a company, that company will have diversity & inclusion representatives determine what pieces of information could be potentially harmful in their specific business or workplace. 
    • These representatives will be able to explain why certain bits of information may adversely affect company policy, and from there that company will create a way to address that issue. 
    • This entire process allows for bias to be bypassed and the information found to be taken objectively, basing the concerns directly from company or workplace policy.
  • These trends are not exclusive to social media in recruiting. They also apply to criminal screening and second-chance hiring situations.

Benefits Of Hiring Third-Party Companies

  • From the start, one of the most noticeable benefits is the increased efficiency hiring a third-party company for social media screening brings.
    • The employer must ask themselves: “Do we believe that information discovered through social media could have an adverse impact on our business?”
  • It also allows for internal employees to continue to do their regularly scheduled jobs as opposed to assigning people to conduct these screenings. 
  • Third-party companies are also be able to provide more data and measurable outcomes based on this social media screening. 
  • The entire process will feel less intrusive for employers and employees alike.This is the “healthy distance” from human error discussed earlier. 
  • Third-party companies can also provide information to the employer that falls within a very finite set of definitions, such as company/workplace policy guidelines, allowing the employer and the candidates to feel less intrusive/less intruded upon, to keep that working relationship healthy.

Social Intelligence

  • Social Intelligence was founded in 2010 behind the idea that the employer/employee relationship behind any social media screening effort should be upheld positively as opposed to the process creating a rift or allowing human error.
    • Social media data needed to be collected in a more meaningful, legally compliant, and efficient manner.
  • Shortly after the company began operating, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted an audit to ensure that the company was behaving legally, and they found that Social Intelligence was performing as a consumer reporting agency and were operating under all legal rules. 
    • The report from the FTC can be found here.
  • As the industry has expanded, Social Intelligence has maintained their original screening process that focuses on potentially adverse content and then reports that content back to the employer.
    • Social Intelligence focuses on four adverse-content buckets when conducting a search:
      • Racism or Intolerance
      • Violence
      • Sexually Explicit Activity
      • Illegal Activity
  • Social Intelligence does business with a very broad range of companies - from Fortune 100 companies to “mom & pop” shops.
    • Their approach is consistent and is for the most part “one size fits all,” that being said, there are certain sectors that require slightly different and specific services and processes.
      • Education is one sector that has worked with Social Intelligence including multiple universities and recently contracted Austin Independent School District (TX) who has begun utilizing Social Intelligence’s services for employees and candidates.
      • Healthcare, finance, entertainment, and manufacturing, are others that have contracted Social Intelligence to monitor social media presence.
  • The screening process typically takes about 24 hours.
    • The reports are normally turned around in one business day.
    • The process uses a proprietary system that scrubs the internet for the important and relevant details that includes human and AI systems.
    • If any potential adverse content is found, Social Intelligence has three different levels of supervision that the content is run through.
    • There are outside sources and databases they utilize to define certain bits of information to determine if that content is truly an issue.
      • This includes resources that help define things like “hate speech” and “hate groups,” etc.
  • There are multiple ways to learn more about Social Intelligence:
  • Special offer for listeners: Lifetime discounted pricing on your new Social Intel account.

Bianca Lager Background


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