Pre-Employment Hiring: To Google or Not to Google?

Employers that use social media sites to perform background checks on job applicants, investigate employees or make other employment-related decisions could be violating employment and privacy laws.

When you use social media as part of your pre-employment hiring process, be careful suggests the Workforce post, “Legal Experts Stress That Social Media Background Checks Create Risks.”

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) holds employers accountable for the information they obtain as part of the pre-employment hiring process. Therefore, social media background checks must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).


Employers that choose to use social media to screen job applicants, be prepared. It may not be the best tool because:

  • It potentially provides information traditionally prohibited during the recruiting process such as age and marital status.
  • Some states prohibit you from using off-duty conduct as a means of making employment decisions.
  • Mistaken identity and identity theft may lead to untrue information.

Be sure to protect yourself and your organization should you decide to use social media as a pre-employment hiring tool. Here’s how:

Establish a process.

Begin by identifying which social media sites you will allow, the type of information you will gather, and how you will use this information.

Keep good records.

Maintain documentation of your results in case you need to support your position or respond to an applicant’s claim that information was used improperly.

Use multiple sources.

Verify and supplement what you find using other screening sources and tools.

Get a signature.

Ask applicants to sign a waiver beforehand acknowledging your process and authorizing the use of information obtained.

Use a third party.

The best way to avoid revealing and using any irrelevant or discriminatory information is to use an outside service to conduct your background checks.

Don’t forget that if you do use social media to conduct pre-employment hiring, give applicants the chance to explain information that may adversely affect their employment opportunity.


If you need assistance, TruDiligence offers 20 years of excellent business experience conducting full-service background checks that are FCRA compliant. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your company.

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