The rise in the number of companies that are hiring social media screening companies to help them in their hiring process from 2006 has increased to an incredible 500%.

Although there are still some doubts, one should ask themselves if they really need to have their future employees undergo a web investigation. Some people know that it will benefit them if they do, but some are afraid of the implications that come along with doing it.

Here is a rundown:

1. There are benefits.
Of course, the obvious reason why you should hire a social media expert is because you want to make sure that you don’t get bad eggs when you hire your employees. These cyber investigations can help you determine if an applicant may turn out to be a racist, be violent or even have a criminal record.

2. There are dangers.
If you happen to decide that you don’t want to hire a person and they find out that you were “snooping” or doing a social search on their profile, you may face the risk of being sued. Especially if they can make it appear that you discriminated them because of what you saw on your digital footprint investigation.

3. There is a solution.
Upon finding out the dangers of being sued, you may be having second thoughts in having your applicants undergo an employment background screening, you’ll be glad to know that there is a solution. You can have a third party FRCA certified analyst do the search.

In addition to the danger of being sued, here are some more important aspects to remember when doing an online investigation.

Online information are legal

Any information about the applicant or employee that are readily available online can be used by your third party online investigator. Though, you will not be able to see the exact details in some reports, you will be able to know if they passed or not. These applicants cannot sue you if the information you used is available online. But you have to remember not to do the search yourself, even you HR department can’t do the “snooping.”

Credit checks are legal but with consent

Because of the federal law Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers are required to obtain a written consent from the worker that they are allowing the company to look into their credit history.

The law that requires consent is required in 50 states. But there are also some exemptions like the states of California, Colorado, and Illinois who place limits on the credit information that an employer can access.

There are industries, however, that have exemptions from the law like companies in the trucking industry.

Drug testing is legal in some states

Most employers are not required by law to require drug test but some are. Some states limit drug testing to the industries that are required by law. Some of these states require the businesses to prove first that drug use may be a legitimate concern in the said company or industry before requiring drug test.

Applicants have their rights to refuse drug tests that are parts of a background check, however, depending on the state they are in and their laws, the company can deny them employment for refusing.

Salary checks are illegal in some states

A lot of state laws limit the rights of an employer to check the previous salary of their applicant. This is to prevent the employer from giving the employee a lower salary than what is budgeted when he finds out that the applicant’s salary is way below their budget.

If an employer happens to ask about the previous salary of an applicant, it is illegal in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, New York City, and New Orleans. If this happens, the applicant is not obliged to reply, he can keep quiet and not answer without jeopardizing his chance of being hired.

Protected information are illegal

As an additional information for the first item tackled in this list, if the information is not readily available, then you are not allowed to search for it. You may be sued by the applicant if you decide not to hire them or decide to fire an employee because of something you saw that should not be accessible.

Employment background screening companies are required by law to follow the FCRA, that means if you hire a reputable social media expert, you do not have to worry about being sued or crossing the line.

Now that you know which ones are illegal and which ones you can do, it is important to remember that you still have some guidelines to follow if you want a smooth and successful attempt in having your applicants and employees go through a background check.

• Do not ever do the search yourself. Don’t let your Human Resources department do it as well. Do not put yourself in danger.

• Do regular social media checks on your current employees. Even seasonal ones if you see it fit.

• Look for the inclusions when looking for a company that does cyber investigations.

Ask questions before you officially sign a deal with the background check company.

When looking to hire people remember that you also have to be on the lookout for guidance and best practices for optimized decision making. Be sure to sign up for help from companies that can help you decrease cost, combat insider threats, and lessening your overall risk as a company.

Author's Bio: 

Nizza Gueco is a freelance writer for Social Intelligence.