Can Recruiters or Employers Rely on Business Connecting Sites Instead of Background Checks?

By Lester Rosen, President of ESR

(Originally posted on

From the mailbag: I have heard the argument made that using business connections sites is more accurate than resumes and can even replace a past employment check, since a candidate is not as likely to lie on an online service where many friends and colleagues may see it.

Answer: Looking at business connection sites during the recruiting or selection stage can certainly be another tool for HR or recruiting to try to differentiate a large group of candidates and whittle it down to a smaller and more manageable group. Even then, there are significant issues to keep in mind, such as the potential for discrimination.

In terms of using such sites as a substitute for an application, background check or other tools to demonstrate due diligence, recruiters and employers may well be on thin ice.

First, if a person lies on a social networking site, there are no direct consequences. These sites do not independently verify any facts. The basic problem is that all of the qualifications are self-stated. Remember those bad home loans issued recently on the basis of “stated income, where a person just made up any income they needed? Some of these sites operate in a similar way.

These sites also do not contain a comment or feedback area where others can disagree, or warn employers that qualifications are overstated. Furthermore, if an applicant has listed a certificate or educational accomplishment that is not true, exactly how are colleagues suppose to knew that, much less bring it to anyone’s attention. A colleague may not even know that an applicant has lied.

Of course, if a person has legitimate recommendations, that can help somewhat. However, a determined con artist could well create a chain of other fake identities that can be used to verify the phony credentials. It may well take a determined recruiter or employer to notice the fraud or track it down. If such a fraud is even discovered, what is the mechanism to alert the business listing site of the fraud.

Employment Screenings Resources has done advanced searches using the names of known diploma mills that offer worthless degrees. It is shocking the number individuals on these business connection sites working for well recognized firms that openly advertise a worthless degree obtained from a degree mill as part of their qualifications. This in fact was demonstrated at a recent meeting on the topic of education fraud by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (

Finally the suggestion without metrics that people do not lie or fabricate on a social network site because others will view it will not likely be much of a defense in court if a firm hires a fibber and it turns out a background check costing a few dollars would have revealed it.

The bottom-line once again: There is nothing as effective as actual verification of a candidate’s claimed experience.

For more information on the use of social network sites and employment, see:

For more information on background checks in general, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at