Online Background Checks

Information about candidates is often easily accessible online, making it possible to conduct a general background screen. While this type of background check can provide information about the applicant that may be relevant to the job position, be cautious about how you evaluate any information you find online, particularly on social media sites. The legal framework around this area is still evolving and privacy commissioners in a number of provinces have raised concerns about these types of background screens.

Areas to mindful as you proceed include the following:

  • It is possible the person you notice online is not the same person who has applied
  • You must only consider information that is relevant to their ability to do the job successfully
  • Evaluate any information you collect against the established selection criteria and do not make assumptions about related behaviour you may notice that is not related to the job
  • If you are using information identified through an online background check, you must document this information and store it with the application documents to comply with freedom of information legislation

The online background screen is different from reference checking that takes place later in the decision-making process. You are simply checking for a few things such as:

  • Has the candidate posted any content online that could be deemed offensive and contrary to the values of your organization?
  • Does the work history provided on the application form match what’s included on their LinkedIn profile or is available through other online sources?
  • Has the candidate been terminated from past employment positions (but failed to mention this on the application documents)?

Even if you notice concerning elements online, do not draw quick conclusions or make broad assumptions about individuals without validating against other applicant documentation. The more evidence you have that your non-selection decisions were based on sound, factual, information, the better you will be if questions later emerge about your decision-making.

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