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In 2024, almost everyone has a social media presence somewhere on the internet. Social media screening is a quick, easy, and cheap way for employers to gain insights into prospective candidates and gives them a different insight into their personality and interests. Social media background checks are increasingly common, with up to 90% of recruiters or HR teams using them as part of the hiring process in the UK. Social media checks are rarely used as the only criteria for deciding who gets a job or not. More commonly, they are just part of the picture along with Right to Work and identity checks, references, performance at interview and academic qualifications.

Why Do Employers Conduct Social Media Checks?

Social media checks are unlikely to be able to confirm academic qualifications or previous employers, although if you have a LinkedIn or Facebook profile, make sure the details you’ve listed on there are the same as the details on your CV. Social media checks are more about making sure there are no red flags around the suitability of a candidate in terms of their posts, the accounts they follow, or the other social media users who they engage with.

Common Reasons for Failing a Social Media Check

Social media checks are just part of the information used to make a recruitment decision, but there are certain things which employers are looking out for which may call your character into question. These include:

  • Discriminatory Remarks: Posting discriminatory or offensive comments online, whether in public forums or on sites such as Twitter/X.
  • Provocative Pictures: Inappropriate or NSFW pictures may be seen as evidence of showing poor judgement, or bad decision making.
  • Excessive Partying: Extensive evidence of excessive partying and drinking may raise concerns about reliability and punctuality.
  • Bad-Mouthing Employers: Negative comments about past or current colleagues, companies or bosses reflect poorly on a candidate’s interpersonal skills and professionalism. Many companies have a policy forbidding workers to comment negatively online.
  • Unlawful Activity: Evidence of criminal behaviour posted online can seriously damage your prospects of being successful in your job hunt.
  • Violent Remarks or Actions: Posting violent content, even in jest, may be seen as inappropriate and another indication of poor judgement.
  • Inconsistent Information: Discrepancies between a candidate’s CV and social media profiles, such as posting about leaving a job in May when your CV says August, is going to raise doubts about honesty.
  • Social Media Absence: While not having social media is a personal choice, choosing not to use social media at all is unusual and employers may question why.

Employers who want to look at your social media as part of their background screening programme should be transparent about what they are doing and why. If you know that your Instagram, TikTok or Facebook account is going to be looked at, you have the chance to audit the feed and delete anything which you would prefer your employer not to know about. Remember that you can’t control what other people post, so consider also who you follow online.