Pros & Cons - Using Facebook and LinkedIn for Background Checking strategy
When hiring Asset Management jobs, one of the most important tasks of HR is to make sure that the candidate’s credentials are as stated on their CV and other supporting paperwork. In the age of social media, many of these checks should be easier. Particularly if you have connected via social media channels such as LinkedIn, it is tempting to scrutinise a candidate’s posts. The question is, should you include social media in your background checks?
Why Make Background Checks?
Even though a candidate goes through a rigorous process that may include telephone calls and aptitude testing, it is no longer enough to rely on the impression made at the interview stage. Many companies require further background checks before hiring. Background checks often include credit referencing and drugs testing.
This isn’t to say that the impression made at the interview isn’t important. It is. Otherwise, the interview could be eliminated from the hiring process, saving managers, HR and candidates a good deal of time and effort. Background checks support the hiring manager’s decision, and they cover legal responsibilities.
However, traditional background checks do not delve into the social side of a candidate. They do not tell you how the candidate is likely to interact with his or her new colleagues once settled into their new role in your asset management team.
When interviewing, a candidate is bound to be on their best behaviour. This means you may not meet the real person. Interview questions will be answered courteously. Manner will be friendly and non-confrontational.
While behavioural interview questions (link to article titled “Behavioural interview questions that get accountants sweating”) help to unmask a candidate’s personality, a well-rehearsed jobseeker may still do enough to fool even the most experienced interviewer. When you interview a candidate, can you be certain that what you see is not a fine-tuned act?
Why Do Background Checks on Social Media
As an employer, you may be considering including social media background checking in your hiring strategy. The reasons to do so are compelling.
The average person spends several hours each week on their social media accounts. They interact with Facebook friends, converse with LinkedIn contacts, and tweet fellow Tweeters. These interactions are likely to reveal the real person.
It is very difficult – and for most people, impossible – for an interview ‘actor’ to carry a pretend persona over to his or her presence on social media. Online is where interviewees let themselves be themselves. Therefore, the temptation is to search social media accounts as a credible source to check a candidate’s true social identity.
Why You Should Not Background Check Using Social Media
While the reasons to add social media to your background checks are convincing, there are also issues that may limit their usefulness. These issues compel caution. The most common of these issues are:
· Mistaken identity
Search for a name on Facebook or other social media, and there is a good chance that you will discover a long list of identical names. Some of these may have similar backgrounds to your candidate. This could lead you to mis-verification.
· Online pseudonyms
Many people use a different identity on social media. Some employers – especially in the public sector – recommend that their employees change their online identities. This can make a background check virtually impossible to conduct with any certainty.
· Cyber bullying
Social media is an unforgiving environment, in which cyber bullies can post false and malicious information about others. Recent research has called into question the validity of published reviews of products sold on Amazon. These reviews are placed to pump products. Cyber bullies post falsehoods to trash reputations. Is it really possible to identify which posts are malicious, and which are truthful?
Balancing Pros & Cons for Asset Managers
Clearly, with so many potential pitfalls of including social media within your background checking tactics, you must approach it with caution. It is easy to mistake identities or be duped by malicious posts and draw incorrect conclusions. You must be very clear that the benefits of social media checks outweigh these potential negatives.
The most useful social media source for background checking is arguably LinkedIn.
This is the online networking tool of choice for professionals, and so tends not to be plagued with misinformation or heated political debate. On LinkedIn, users observe a code of conduct, act professionally and exhibit their workplace persona. By reviewing how a candidate interacts with others online, the regularity with which they offer help, the thanks they receive, and the strength of their online community, it may be possible to gauge how he or she may perform within your team. However, there can be no guarantees.
An effective background checking strategy will ensure that you confirm a large amount of information about a professional looking for a new job. This may include:
- Verifying identity
- Confirmation of qualifications
- Confirming previous employment: roles, responsibilities and achievements
- Verifying professional qualifications and licenses
- Criminal history checks
- Financial history and credit checks
Checking that their personality is how you perceive it to be through the interview process is much more difficult. Social media checks are a natural route for this. A candidate’s social media presence can:
- Provide evidence of how a person interacts with others
- Tell you of their ability to accept different points of view
- Help you discover if they are the innovative thinker you believe them to be
However, you may also uncover things about them that you didn’t expect to find. You may read negative comments about them that seem completely out of character to their interview persona. If you do include social media in your background checking strategy, it pays to be cautious.
Ensure that you check and double-check both negative and positive comments. A lone complaint may be taken with a pinch of salt. A pattern of complaints or negative comments from a range of posters could be a sign that the candidate has a flaw that you have not detected – or it could be a malicious and orchestrated attack designed to trash a career.
Finally, people do change. Recent social media records are a much better indicator of character than inappropriate photos snapped on a stag weekend seven years ago.
Many of our candidates in asset management interact with us on social media, and specifically LinkedIn. It gives us a great insight into their real persona. To benefit from this candidate insight, contact the Real Estate Investment & Funds team at Macdonald & Company today. As the preferred recruitment partner of RICS, our finger is firmly on the pulse of the market.