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Reviewing social media in the hiring process

A background investigator can learn a lot about a person by simply looking at their social media accounts

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip applies to all my friends in public safety.

I talk to a lot of you folks about recruiting and retention. Each time, the conversation turns to the difficulty of finding good people to hire. Discovering applicants who have made mostly good life choices can be a challenge — especially since many of these choices end up on Facebook, Instagram, and other social sites.

In today’s world, when agencies investigate the background of applicants, they have a variety of resources at their disposal. One of them is social media. A background investigator can learn a lot about a person by simply looking at their social media accounts. What do they post? What do they share? What comments do they make?

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If you find yourself assigned to conduct a background investigation, please review the applicant’s social media accounts, if you can. You never know what you’re going to find.

I say, “if you can,” for a reason. Any public activity on social media should be fair game, but private interactions are more problematic. Some agencies ask applicants to log in or provide user names and passwords to their personal accounts so investigators can have a look around. But many states prohibit this practice, so make sure you’re in compliance.

I’m a risk manager, so you likely know what’s coming next. Follow your agency policy. And if you’re not sure what the law requires or prohibits in your state, please check with legal counsel and seek direction. And ideally, whoever is reviewing an applicant’s social media should not be involved in the candidate selection process.

Reviewing social media accounts and other public information on the internet can be valuable during background investigations. Just be sure you do so within the confines of policy, local regulations, and state law.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.