Reference Checks vs. Social Media

August 15th, 2014 by Dodie

When researching someone’s background, whether it be part of a job interview process, or a background check for a rental application, the more information that you can gather, the better informed you will be. Because of this, some employers are now using social media either as part of the background research or to replace the conventional background check altogether.

There are a few benefits to doing an employee background check or tenant screening this way, but there are some disadvantages as well. Here are what you need to know to decide what type of background check to conduct.

The Difference Between Social Media and a Conventional Background Check

A background check company will provide a completely different aspect of the prospective employee or renter’s background. With a conventional background check, you can find out things like whether or not the person has a criminal history, take a look at their credit report to determine if they pay their bills on time and other available information such as education and work history. Social media gives you a completely different picture of the person in question – a much more personal look at them, often comprising their friends and family, political and religious views and more.

Benefits of Social Media Mining

Checking out someone’s social media profiles, on websites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ can give you a great deal of personal information about the prospective employee or renter. Social media can tell you what sort of things they do in their spare time, what kind of friends they keep and more. The benefit of this information is that it is sometimes very honest and personal, and you may learn a great deal about a person’s character. This is often useful because past employers or landlords may not always give honest references. In recent years, employers in particular, have felt that they may be held liable for giving a bad reference and so many will give a more positive reference than is accurate, or even abstain from giving a reference altogether.

On the other hand, most of the information acquired from social media is superficial – the type of music the person likes, for example. The information presented in a background check from a company that provides them for renters and prospective employees is usually much more viable than information from social media. Looking at a credit report can tell you whether or not the person you are considering renting to is apt to pay their rent on time, and a criminal background check can tell you the type of person you are hiring or allowing to move in.

The Best of Both Worlds

Often, the best bet is to cover all of your bases, doing both a conventional background check and a reference check as well as gathering information from social media, to get the best picture possible of your prospective renter or employee.

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