By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2023, Cain Publications, Inc.
They tried to think of everything. With dummied up bank records, tax records, employer and landlord references complete with phone numbers of friends, they created a history that showed them to be stable and responsible. But they forgot one thing: social media.
Some 70 percent of employers use social media to screen applicants. Social media has been a go-to source of screening ever since Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok became popular.
People say stupid stuff and think no one will notice. That’s the advantage of using social media for screening and verifying what’s on an application. All that money they paid companies to create phony documents, and time they took time preparing everything, can end up wasted because their social media accounts tell a different story,
Social media use varies by age. Khoros.com posted that of the 2.93 billion active and 1.96 billion daily users of Facebook, 86 percent of people 18–29 and 77 percent of people ages 30–49 use Facebook. Instagram’s 500 million users have 67 percent of 18-29-year olds and 47 percent of 30-49-year-olds using it daily. Of Twitter’s 436 million active and 238 million daily users, 38 percent are 18-29 and 26 percent 30-49. Since the vast majority of users of these social media platforms are in their 20s and 30s, expect that any applicant in that age group will be present on social media.
LinkedIn, a more business-oriented site, shows a different age profile. Only 21 percent of 18-24–year-olds use it daily as compared to 60 percent of 25-34-year-olds. On LinkedIn, you are more likely to find people posting about business and employment. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter you find more personal information and maybe some things that call into question the documents an applicant provided.
Checking social media is free, requiring only a little time searching and maybe occasional creativity. Someone with even a little experience in tracking people down on social media can avoid a bad hire or a bad tenant. Of course, it can also confirm desirable qualifications.
How to Do It
Usually, it’s easy. Just type the person’s name into a search on Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok and see what comes up. With some names, you may have to focus your search more by adding the city where the person lives or maybe their school or some other defining criteria just to be sure you are looking at the right person.
Look for anything that tells you enough about the applicant regarding his or her character and qualifications to help you decide if this is the person who deserves to work for you or live in your property. For example, what if you find that Joe Blow brags about how he just ripped off his employer and got the blame placed on someone else? What if Geraldine Moe posted how much she hates Blacks, Hispanics, and anyone else who’s not Caucasian? What if Joe Blow’s back at it and posts pictures of himself drunk out of his mind and trashing the house where the party is? Are these people you want to hire or have living in your rental properties?
Personal information people post about themselves such as where they work and how long they’ve worked there also often shows up on someone’s Facebook or Twitter account. Does that information match what’s on their applications?
You might also find information that confirms what a responsible citizen and all-around good person he or she is. Look for information that might be in addition to or contradict what’s on his or her application.
Toggle.com provides a list of the things that employers look at when they research someone on social media. At the top of the list is “provocative or inappropriate photos and video,” followed closely by “information about the candidate drinking or using drugs.” “Discriminatory comments on race, gender, religion, etc.” comes in a close third. Naturally one of the first reasons we think to check is if your “candidate lied about qualifications” or “badmouthed previous employer.” They list a few more, any of which could help you decide on a candidate’s qualifications.
Toggle.com warns us, though, to “take everything with a grain of salt.” It’s easy to fake profiles on social media. They think nobody checks or cares, after all.
Be especially careful about illegal discrimination. If you reject an applicant who happens to be a member of a protected class, it’s not what you meant; it’s what someone thinks you might have meant. If what you found on social media causes you to reject an applicant, take screenshots of the information that caused you to reject and save it.
If you can’t locate a candidate on social media and your candidate is under 35, be suspicious. It’s possible that your candidate is one of the 14 percent of that age group that has no Facebook account but probably not. Sometimes people use pseudonyms so no one except friends will know who they are. They might also have deleted their social media accounts before they applied to you because what they posted would immediately turn off an employer or landlord. Finding them is more difficult and not always worth the time, but not impossible.
Mostly it’s a wild goose chase and you might just need to verify everything more carefully than usual because of the time it will take to drill down into social media and the unlikely results. Hashtags probably are the easiest to use to look for posts by people who have pseudonyms or have deleted their accounts. They are a sorting system to help locate specific information about any topic or person. For example, do a search using #company name (whatever that is) using either Twitter or Facebook and see what comes back. I just did a search using #wellsfargo and got hundreds of posts on both Facebook and Twitter. Probably more than you’d want to wade through.
Four things are most important to remember. First, leave social media to end of the process. Check only those who might be qualified. Second, don’t decide based solely on social media because it’s not all that reliable. Most reliable are the verifications you do. Social media only give you clues—albeit sometimes valuable ones. Third, since you can only get a limited amount of information from social media, assume nothing and verify everything on both their applications and social media. Fourth, your social media qualification criteria must match the written criteria you use for hiring and renting.
Social media screening provides another tool in the application box. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to drive in a nail, so use the tool that best fits your needs and suspicions. But when you find information that can determine the quality of an applicant by using social media, you’ve done yourself a favor.
Written for Zip Reports where they do employment and rental screening. Contact Robert L. Cain at email@example.com