What is social media screening?

Person holding smartphone in her hands showing social media shares, likes and comments.

YouGov recently revealed that in 2017 a huge 36% of UK employers rejected a candidate based on their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn profiles.

Increasingly employers are including social media in their candidate background screening process – but what are they looking for? Keith Rosser, Director at Reed Screening and Chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners - Europe, gives his insight on the process.

1. Who conducts social media screening?

Candidate social media profiles can be looked at by the employer, the recruiter, a professional screening agency or a combination of the above.

Usually, a recruiter will look into a candidate’s social media history in the pre-interview stage, well before any formal vetting commences. Once the employer receives the applications from the recruiter, they too may decide to search for the applicants on social networks.

Many companies also hire pre-employment vetting firms to conduct thorough social media screening. Reed Specialist Recruitment has its own screening company, Reed Screening, but many recruiters and employers outsource this service.

2. What kind of social media activity is considered ‘adverse’?

Although at present there is no standardised approach applied to social media screening, there are a number of factors that are generally seen as concerning in the recruitment process.

  • Information which contests the information on your CV
  • Derogatory posts written about a former employer
  • Inappropriate language
  • Illegal or offensive behaviour

3. How far back do social media screeners look?

There is also currently no standardised approach when it comes to time frame in social media screening. Typically social activity conducted since 18 years of age will be taken into consideration. However, without a standardised approach, social media posts made at the age of 13 or so, could be included in checks.

As a recruiter, a pre-employment vetting business, and as the leader of the trade association for the sector we strongly believe in the need to protect job seekers and employees by having a fair, transparent, and standardised approach to this. It seems unfair that people can be treated so differently due to a lack of standard practice.

​4. What can you do to ensure you don’t lose out on a job because of your social media activity?

It is important to tackle your social media footprint. When screening your own profiles, be thorough. It may be the case that you have to look back a number of years for anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable saying to a potential employer, or that could be considered offensive.

Where possible you should remove any activity which could be contentious, where it can't be removed be ready to explain the background and context if it does come up.

Review your privacy settings - make sure you know exactly what’s visible to the public and consider this in any future activity.

​Moving forward, always think before you post. Think longer term than the newsfeed and wider than your following – your social posts could be seen long after they are published and could harm your chances of securing a job.