South African employers are screening your social media posts – here’s what they’re looking out for

Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) has published its annual Background Screening Index, showing how companies are using background checks to sort through potential job candidates.

One of the challenges continuously faced by recruitment professionals is the risk of candidates misrepresenting their professional, criminal and academic histories in order to secure work, said Jennifer Barkhuizen, head of communications at MIE.

“This places added pressure on the recruitment process, and further underpins the need to accurately and reliably assess candidates before hiring commences, to ensure that the candidate is the right fit for an organisation, and that the necessary due diligence has taken place.

“Not only are financial and reputational risks mitigated for the organisation, but undue pressure on recruitment budgets can be avoided.”

The index shows that criminal record checks remain the most requested amongst all available checks, and although risk levels dropped to below 20% in 2020, this is expected to increase in 2021 due to lower lockdown levels, increased unemployment and economic strain.

“The high unemployment rate in South Africa, coupled with retrenchments and organisations closing their doors, will contribute to the many challenges job-seekers face with finding employment, and further emphasizes the importance of background screening vigilance on the part of those responsible for hiring decisions,” Barkhuizen said.

While much of the focus is still on potential criminal, qualification and financial issues, the MIE reported a 700% increase in social media requests, with much of the focus on negative comments on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The report shows that:

  • 46% of negative content is found on Facebook;
  • 43% of negative content is found on Twitter;
  • 11% of negative content is found through a web search/Google.

An analysis of the ‘negative content’ that is being screened highlights issues such as discriminatory comments and potential drug abuse.

However, the report also highlighted that issues such as Covid-19 misinformation is being checked for on these platforms.

  • 47% of all negative content was found to be of a discriminatory nature – this includes issues such as racism; sexism, homophobia, religious discrimination; potential hate speech;
  • 32% of all negative content was found to contain unprofessional content/sexual images (high amounts of profanity, potential defamation, aggressive content);
  • 19% of all negative content was found to demonstrate drug use and/or distribution (this takes into account the decriminalisation of marijuana);
  • 10% of all negative content is found to be a potentially illegal nature (drinking and driving, prostitution, potential fraud, assault);
  • 11% of all negative content found related to misinformation relating to Covid-19,

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South African employers are screening your social media posts – here’s what they’re looking out for