The community closed the following question:

How do prospective employers screen private social networking profiles?

It had quite a bit of NC content and rightfully should have been closed because of this. I had edited this out easily and it leaves the very important and interesting question...

"How do companies perform social media background checks?"

I feel it is a valid concern as previous questions about background checks on the Workplace were also considered appropriate. The moderator asks:

IMO "How do they" shouldn't be asked unless it's been established that the answer to "Do they" is yes

I think that if the question were "Do they ..." then it would be more appropriate for Skeptics however. Also there do exist companies that specialize in this sort of background check so while it is still relatively unknown that this goes on, it is very clearly a real thing.


I believe the question is worthy of being reopened now.

2 Answers 2


It's clearly real that people search for social media information, but generally this is public information. The question explicitly states they're interested in how recruiters look at information that should apparently be private. Your link doesn't particularly prove that private searches are common:

Search only public content about the candidate on the Internet

I've heard certain reports that some companies ask for social media passwords, but A) I'm not sure how real/common that is B) If it's not outright illegal, it's a violation of Facebook's ToS C) if you give them your password, you know how they found your information, so it's not relevant here anyway.

So we're back at "real problems you face"; I don't really feel this question makes much sense without some reasoning behind it; did HR know something that should have been private on his facebook? Is it well known that they find this information (I still don't see evidence of this). The question started with "I am just curious" which is a huge red flag. I edited it out, but I don't feel the question has really risen above plain curiosity at this point. When you're "just curious" with your question, all too often you get answers that are "just guessing", and those don't really help anyone. At worst they they're incorrect to boot.

I disagree that "do they" is only appropriate for Skeptics; while it's certainly on topic for Skeptics if you found a notable claim of such behavior, it's still 100% on topic on The Workplace, and IMO much more relevant to workers than "how". I mean, how is "how" relevant if places don't do these seemingly impossible background checks? That takes the question out of practicality and into theory, which isn't really what the site is about.

  • The concern of curiousity is legitimate if by not knowing how companies do this means you could be disqualified from many positions. The reason for the question is irrelevant, it should be able to stand on its own ground if it is on topic and clearly answerable. Nov 30, 2012 at 15:57
  • seemingly impossible background checks This is an interesting take and I understand what you mean by the "theory". In theory if you don't provide your password then they shouldn't be able to see private information in your social media accounts. A legitimate concern however is if there is possibly some method for these background check companies to figure it out anyway, (Eg. demand that you Friend our background check company so that we can see what your other Friends see...) Now we are entering into a perfect question for Skeptics as long as we can find the notable claim. Nov 30, 2012 at 16:01
  • @maple_shaft "Eg. demand that you Friend our background check company so that we can see what your other Friends see..." means that they don't do it by some secret method, they just ask you to let them in... Dec 2, 2012 at 12:42
  • @maple_shaft - Would anyone who was aware of some kind of "back door" screening service offered by Facebook or another social media platform really confirm it existed by posting on this site? The value of such a service would only exist if it was concealed from the general public. Similarly if a company routinely employed security experts to undertake social media hacking/phishing to gain access to private data on social media pages they are unlikely to expose this via stack exchange.
    – GuyM
    Dec 2, 2012 at 18:16
  • @GuyM Well the simplest explanation is the most likely one, and I am a firm believer that sinister plots become exponentially harder to keep secret the more people that are involved. Also I believe that stupidity and ignorance is far more common than malice. It is really hard to keep secrets in the internet age. I strongly believe that this doesn't happen. Dec 3, 2012 at 2:35

I suspect the "How do companies do social media background checks" question would struggle to find a "best" -or definitive - answer for a couple of reasons :

  • how formally or informally this forms part of the process is going to vary considerably from organisation to organisation

  • the legality of this kind of check will vary from country to country, as will the level of checks required for positive security vetting

As a result, I'd suggest that answers are likely ot be pretty localised.

  • 1
    The existing answers also sort of go past the question as asked...one is "I don't think this really happens" and one is "Here's how I check up on people (and I don't do this)"
    – Rarity
    Dec 2, 2012 at 17:11
  • 1
    Even a problem statement (I'm worried that some things I have posted on social media may not put me in a good light when it comes to applying for a job; can companies gain access to my profile and what shoudl I do?) would tend to result in some pretty short answers...
    – GuyM
    Dec 2, 2012 at 17:44

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