Social Media Screening: Should Recruiters Stalk or not Stalk?

You hire a salesperson and when their three-month probation review is up you find out she’s a stripper… However, this is not affecting her daily job, what would you do?

This is an example scenario of what you could find out after a social media stalk.

The average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 145 minutes per day, up from 142 minutes in the previous year. It’s no question that everyone’s on social media. These numbers continue to rise with no sign of stopping.  

However, with the increased use of social media, the issue arises: is it ethical for HR professionals to stalk people on their personal social media accounts during the recruitment process?

A social media background check is when a recruiter reviews a potential hire’s personal and business social media profiles during the hiring process. This is called social media screening and is aimed to reveal information to determine the hiring ability of a candidate. “The three main platforms that most employers check are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter,” said Matt Erhard, senior partner at Summit Search Group. revealed. This step in the hiring process is becoming the norm. The social media screening step reveals how the candidate communicates with others online in their personal life. On the other hand, a business social platform such as LinkedIn is aimed towards professional experiences which could benefit the candidate.  

So, picture this, you try to squeeze all your information on one or two A4 pages for your resume. You create a cover page specifically for that job posting and plan a face-to-face interview for them to ask you virtually anything. Then you meet them in person and find out they have taken the extra step to search you up on all social media platforms. This has actually happened to me personally when they have even told me about performing this step. At the time, I didn’t even blink an eye. Is this the new norm? Has social media infiltrated our lives so deep that they seep into our workplaces? Let’s weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of social media screening. 

Some may argue that resumes are too blank without photos and that finding more information about a candidate gives them more personality to make them memorable. Social media can reveal common ground topics that resumes don’t discuss such as local team sports and other extracurricular activities. 

Job visibility is increased as they have a larger digital footprint online. Using this step to filter to higher quality candidates reduces the cost to hire by shortening hiring time. 

Using platforms such as LinkedIn opens the door to engagement as it enables another communication channel that is set apart from the traditional email or phone. 

A social media screening tool can uncover pictures of candidates in compromising situations, posts of them being violent or abusive online. All sorts of behaviors that they can easily hide during an interview. This can be used instead of a reference checking. This step is also free to undertake as everyone has access to social media platforms. 

Even though people may argue that what you put online is out there for everyone to see, the aim of where the content is posted is important to who is allowed to view it and use it to judge the candidate. 

Information might be inaccurate or out of date, the age of social media users continues to decrease. What people have stated online as children will vary incredibly differently from when they are adults. There could also be a lack of reliability present as anyone can post online under any name or pretend to be another person to tarnish their reputation. Or there could also be multiple people under the same name.  

According to the results of CareerBuilder’s annual survey on social media recruitment, 35 percent of employers are less likely to interview applicants they can’t find online.


“On the other hand, if the position was dealing with marketing, business development or recruiting, I would have reservations about hiring people without a strong social background. As tools are changing, the skills and experience associated with using social media are becoming requirements for strong performance in those types of roles.” Jay Kuhns, vice president of operations and health care strategy at Kinetix stated in an interview with SHRM Online

As some people may have a personal choice to decide not to use any social media platforms this creates an unlevel playing field for candidates who HR professionals may be deterred from hiring due to lack of using social media. 

 Some recruiters use social media to settle curiosity prior to an interview. This can create unconscious bias. Subconsciously they are letting appearances affect their hiring motives. The difference between viewing someone on social media versus in person is that in-person the candidate has a chance to speak for themselves and answer questions. When viewed online it can be seen as unfair as they are judged on their appearance and not for how they hold themselves and speak in person.  If they don’t like the way someone looks will this mean they won’t get the job? 

 Consequently, candidates may be judged on their age, race, gender, and other factors that could put them at risk of discrimination. Is the resume, cover letter, phone interview, and possibly even a video call interview not sufficient information that the recruiter is required to stalk further?

 HR is the change agent that sets what’s acceptable or not for the future of their company. They need to be aware of their decisions when recruiting new hires as they shape the new norm for companies everywhere.