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Written By Thomas Ahearn

Social Media Background ChecksTo help employers understand the possible risks of using social media to screen job applicants, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – has released a white paper titled ‘Ten Potential Dangers When Using Social Media Background Checks.’ The complimentary white paper is available for download at

“Employers have discovered a treasure trove of information on potential job applicants by using social media sites,” says Attorney Lester Rosen, ESR Founder and CEO and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’ “However, the unrestricted use of social media background checks could well land an employer, human resources professional, or recruiter in hot water.  Just because it is online does not mean it is true or free of legal risks.”

Co-authored by Rosen and Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Editor and Social Media Manager, the white paper ‘Ten Potential Dangers When Using Social Media Background Checks’ provides an introduction for employers using social media background checks, the possible legal risks faced when conducting such screening, and potential solutions to avoid legal issues. Specifically, the white paper focuses on ten potential dangers employers may encounter when using social media background checks:

  • 1. Too Much Information (TMI) Leading to Discrimination Allegations
  • 2. Too Little Information (TLI)
  • 3. Credibility, Accuracy & Authenticity Issues
  • 4. “Computer Twins” & “Cyber-Slamming”
  • 5. Privacy Issues in a Brave New Online World
  • 6. Requiring Applicants to Provide Social Media Passwords
  • 7. Legal Off-Duty Conduct
  • 8. What is “Fair Game” on the Internet?  The Dangers of Pre-Texting and Social Engineering
  • 9. Should Background Screening Firms Perform Social Media Background Checks?
  • 10. Hurting Employer Brand

Social media background checks are used now more than ever by employers. A CareerBuilder study found nearly two in five companies – 39 percent – used social media to research job candidates in 2013, up from 37 percent in 2012. And social media is not just for “young” people in the 18-29 year old age group any more. A Pew Internet Project Social Networking Fact Sheet found 78 percent of online adults in the 30-49 age group and 55 percent in the 50-64 age group used social media as of September 2013.

The white paper defines social media as “forms of electronic communication such as Web sites for social networking and microblogging through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, messages, and other content such as videos.” Due to the growing popularity of social media, employers would be hard pressed to completely ignore such an enormous amount of available online information when screening prospective new hires. Some of the popular social media websites include*:

  • Facebook – 1.23 billion active users as of December 2013
  • YouTube – More than 1 billion unique users visit each month
  • Google+ – 540 million active users as of October 2013
  • LinkedIn – More than 259 million acquired users as of June 2013
  • Twitter – 200 million active users as of February 2013
  • Tumblr – Hosts over 180.7 million blogs as of April 2014
  • Instagram – Over 100 million active users as of April 2012
  • Flickr – 87 million registered members as of March 2013

*Source: – May 2014

Rosen, a nationally recognized background check expert, founded Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) in 1997 in the San Francisco, CA-area to ensure safe workplaces for employers, employees, and the public. He is a noted writer, consultant, and speaker on due diligence issues including social media background checks. For more information about Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), please visit, call Toll Free 888.999.4474, or email [email protected].

More Information about Social Media Background Checks

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