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Social Media Background Checks: The Dos and Don’ts

Updated: Mar 27

The use of social media as a tool for background checks on prospective employees has become increasingly common. While it can provide valuable information, employers must be cautious and aware of the legal implications of using this information during the hiring process. In this blog, we will discuss the dos and don'ts for employers when conducting social media background checks on new starters.


  1. Use technology: Technology enables organisations to eliminate human error and bias when conducting Social Media Background Checks and ensures compliance throughout. VettingGateway’s Social Media Checks are purpose-built for employers needing to compliantly check the social media footprint of their staff and new starters. The tool conducts an automated scan on any social media profiles the applicant consents to and within minutes, generates a PDF report highlighting any issues found.

  2. Ensure consent is obtained: It is essential to capture consent from your applicants when conducting social media background checks. You should be able to show when consent was granted by your applicant along with the specific social media accounts. Consent can be obtained in writing but it is often more efficient to capture it digitally where possible.

  3. Follow data protection laws: In the UK, employers must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 when collecting and using personal data, including information obtained from a social media background check.

  4. Categorise the information obtained: It’s important to know what types of information you’re looking for and what’s important to your organisation before conducting social media checks. VettingGateway’s social media checks do the hard work for you, reporting back on any issues found within the following categories:

    • Extremist groups

    • Swearing & profanity

    • Negative sentiment

    • Hate speech

    • Violent images

    • Potential nudity

    • Toxic language


  1. Discriminate: It's illegal to discriminate against an applicant based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Employers must avoid making any hiring decisions based on irrelevant information obtained from a social media background check.

  2. Misrepresent yourself: Employers must not create fake social media accounts or impersonate others to access information about an applicant. This is illegal and can lead to severe consequences.

  3. Overlook relevant information: Employers must consider all relevant information obtained from a social media background check and provide an applicant with an opportunity to provide context for any negative information.

  4. Neglect the laws: Employers must be aware of and comply with all relevant laws and regulations regarding social media background checks, including the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.

In conclusion, conducting social media background checks on prospective employees can provide valuable information, but it requires caution and compliance with the law. UK employers should follow the dos and don'ts discussed in this blog to ensure that they are conducting social media background checks in a legal and ethical manner.

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