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One in five fear online background checks by employers

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45% believe that employers should not do social media checks 

According to new research, job seekers in the UK and Ireland are concerned about social media background checks. The research from HR and payroll specialists Zellis revealed that 19% of job applicants hide their social media activity in order to pass background checks.

The research was carried out in May 2022 amongst recent job applicants and showed that job seekers across all age groups are concerned that their online activity may lead to missed employment opportunities.

Reports state that 70% of organisations perform background checks on applicants’ social media; however, many applicants do not understand the reasons for these checks. Online background checks are a tool to pick up risk factors, for example, discriminatory language or undisclosed criminal behaviour. On the other hand, it can also highlight positive attributes such as charity work or volunteering.

The research indicates that  45% of respondents believe that organisations should not carry out these checks. Many respondents feared that the company might be looking for too much information. Nine percent thought that social media checks could uncover confidential medical history. A further 12% felt that it could reveal characteristics such as age or sexuality.

The research also found that 27% lied in a job interview about experience or qualifications. Twenty-two percent of these said that not having the right experience for the job was their biggest concern when interviewing for roles.

Ian Howard, Co-Founder of Neotas, commented: “It’s a common misconception that social media searches are used to somehow illegitimately access or hack personal accounts, when in reality they are only used to retrieve publicly available information about a job applicant.”

“Social media background checks are now a vital tool for hirers, helping to review a candidate’s attitude, as well as aptitude, for the role they’re applying for. As a company, Neotas prides itself on helping organisations to understand potential employees better by empowering them to carry out AI driven background checks which help to identify red flags whilst maintaining the personal privacy of job applicants.”

David Crewe, Customer Operations Director at Zellis, said: “The job market has never been as competitive as it is today, but that doesn’t mean hirers can get complacent. Background checks should be commonplace for any organisation, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be mindful about how they feel for candidates.”

“It is crucial to offer candidates reassurance about the process, particularly the steps being taken to eliminate unconscious bias, or information about protected characteristics which should never be used in the hiring process. Background checking is not about catching applicants out or looking into their personal life, but rather about building confidence for the best candidates and ensuring a safe, accepting and positive workplace.”

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