September 16, 2020  

5 Keys to Screening Social Media When Hiring at Scale

Social Media Screening Pre-Employment Background Checks Recruiting

If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’ve been tasked with finding ways to screen the social media footprints of hundreds or thousands of candidates at warp speed while ensuring a positive candidate experience and keeping costs low, right smack in the middle of a global pandemic. No pressure, right?

Because of the multifaceted situation we all find ourselves in, including a rise in remote-first workplaces and a polarized social climate, there has been an enormous increased demand for social media screening. But most methods are resource-intensive and overwhelming, especially when you’re doing them manually, or all by yourself.

So, how can you make sure you’re effectively vetting talent at scale while making sure the process doesn’t slow you down?

Here are five keys to efficiently and effectively screening candidates’ social media presence while mass hiring in any environment, along with five practical steps you can take right now.

How to Vet Candidate Social Media Effectively at Scale

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1. Review and follow your existing policies and guidelines

Most mature organizations have existing corporate policies and guidelines that prohibit unacceptable behaviors (bigotry, racism, harassment). Your screening criteria should mirror the same policies and guidelines and serve as an extension of your policy.

We’ve heard from many organizations recently that they’ve improved their policies to ensure safe, inclusive workplaces. It only makes sense for them to extend those improvements to their social media screening program, too. People who demonstrate hateful behaviors or share bigoted or intolerant information online can potentially bring their biases into the workplace and undermine genuine efforts to create an inclusive, empowered workforce.

When vetting at scale, it’s better to make sure a candidate’s background is free of key behaviors that can result in a bad hire or risk to your corporate brand than it is to focus on the “perfect” hire. (Greg Muccio, the Director of Talent Acquisition at Southwest Airlines, has this to say about talent screening: “We won't ever tell someone who they have to take in the hiring phase, but we will tell them who they can't take.")

By that measure, it’s okay to keep your screening criteria simple when hiring at scale.

Though some clients add keywords to surface content that is specific to the industry or roles they’re hiring for, most of our clients who are hiring at scale generally prefer to look at standard behaviors and only review the reports that raise major red flags.

  • Action: Review your existing policy, focus on screening out unacceptable behaviors, and focus your hiring criteria on the parameters that your policies spell out.

2. Choose a tool that offers flexibility and customization

Make sure your technology is solving problems, not creating them. The tools you pick should be easy to use or easy to learn in a brief training session, and they should be efficient, reliable, legally sound, and designed to treat all candidates equitably.

Choose tools that can be scaled up and down seamlessly, that integrate with your existing tech stack, that have quick turnaround without compromising quality, and that offer flexibility.

Since every company’s requirements vary, you want to have screening criteria that are customizable and allow you to look for the behaviors that are most relevant to the role you’re hiring for, instead of a rigid setup that can’t adapt to your needs.

  • Action: Ask your provider about the customization, turnaround, and tech/integration features their screening tool offers and how it will help you.

3. Ensure fairness and compliance

Make sure the technology is legally compliant to help avoid discrimination claims and lawsuits. If you use a social media screening tool, it should comply with FCRA, GDPR, and EEOC rules plus any other applicable state and local laws.

Choose technology that ensures consistency. Opt for technology that reduces unconscious biases. Adopt a standardized, consistent workflow where every candidate for a role is subject to the same screening criteria to eliminate inadvertent bias and discrimination. This is especially important when using artificial intelligence (AI) because, although AI can minimize bias in screening, it’s only as good as the data that it is given to work with.

  • Action: Ask your provider how they can help you ensure compliance, and about the steps they take to reduce bias during the screening process.

4. Figure out the adjudication process

Once you’ve figured out where in your process to run a social media screening, we encourage you to think about your adjudication process, the process that ensures all candidates will be reviewed and considered in the same way. We encourage our clients to discuss and agree upon this process internally before a single candidate comes into the picture to reduce the possibility of subjectivity and bias.

The adjudication process also:

  • increases the confidence levels of report reviewers by removing guesswork and uncertainty;
  • helps enormously if a discrimination or bias claim occurs;
  • creates an appropriate step, and an opportunity, to consider mitigating factors wherever they may exist.
Action: Consider what your process and criteria for escalation will look like and ask your provider how they can help facilitate the workflow for reviewers and decision makers. Put a plan in place to follow appropriate steps in case of an adverse action.

5. Relax

When I begin working with large organizations that are setting up a social media screening programs for the first time, they’re often daunted by the idea of having to deal with an imagined crush of incoming new information. But when they do this, they’re thinking catastrophically. It’s an unwarranted worry.

The truth is, you probably already have a great hiring process and are doing an amazing job with your candidate pipeline. So, this is just a new tool in your arsenal. The reality is this: only a small percentage of reports are going to have actionable content. You’re going to be able to handle that as it comes, and we’re always here to guide you along the way.

  • Action: Remind yourself that for the majority of companies, fewer than 5 percent of reports actually require review. Feel good about that and let the process work for you.

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Wendy Halson is the VP of Customer Success at Fama. With over 15 years of experience in client services, she has helped top brands, executive search firms and background screening providers implement successful social media and web screening programs.

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