Social Media and Criminal Record Checks
Social media has taken over the lives of millions of people around the world, including many of those who are looking for a job. Young people especially use a number of social media platforms as a matter of course all through their waking hours, and indeed often find advertised jobs that way. While this type of internet use has its advantages, it should be remembered that potential employers are able to access all social media sites. As laws regarding acceptable behaviour become better defined, it could be that social media interactions will affect an applicants job prospects, not least if it means acquiring a criminal conviction.
Cross Platform Activity
Social media is so much part of people’s lives that it often blurs the lines between work and leisure. There are some websites which are designed specifically to help people advertise their skills and experience in order to progress their careers; LinkedIn being the obvious example. People behave differently on such platforms than they do on their other social media sites, as they want potential employers to see them in the best possible light. This would be fine if LinkedIn was the only platform recruiters use to check out a person’s character.
In fact, research has shown that more employers look at Facebook than LinkedIn when checking out a potential employee; especially if the recruiter is male. If an applicant’s profile is public, this gives an employer free reign to have a good look at the type of thing an applicant posts on a regular basis. Although Facebook and other sites have rules regarding what is permissible, the fact is that people still want to show the world (or at least their online friends) what they like, think and feel. As this is likely to be exaggerated for effect, this gives smart employers an even better insight into people’s personalities.
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It is also possible to evade censure from social media sites for quite serious offences and still give an insight into your opinions. Employers are most likely to avoid taking on any applicant who posts (or even hints) about drug use, racist opinions, sexist / homophobic views, anything regarding previous employers, detailed sexual encounters, and political issues. Even swearing and bad spelling / grammar will put an employer off, despite the fact that people often use different language on social media to that which they’d use professionally.
Another thing to avoid when engaging with social media is to get involved with online spats. This tends to happen on Twitter, when people become more and more enraged about a particular topic. The platform can suspend people’s accounts, especially if the police get involved. Depending on how old the person concerned was when they were suspended, and the reason for it, this might show up on a criminal record check. If a potential employer asks an applicant for a basic DBS check, they don’t have to have a reason to do so; in which case, any unspent conviction will show up. Even if this is a community order for online offences, an employer will see the conviction.
The standard and enhanced criminal record check disclose more than this basic check. They show all convictions, whether spent or not, and also any current or spent cautions, reprimands and final warnings. Enhanced checks also include notes provided by relevant police forces regarding any conviction. In these searches, even if an online exchange took place ten years ago when the applicant was a teenager, the record still stands. Whether the employer deems this relevant to the job being offered is their prerogative.
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Fortunately, both standard and enhanced DBS checks are strictly regulated. As they have to be requested by employers or other registered bodies, they have to conform to specific rules. Only roles described as regulated activities qualify for these high level checks; jobs such as teacher, doctor, nurse and care worker. In the case of an enhanced DBS check, police will look at what job is being applied for before deciding whether to include information on any previous conviction. If they decide such an offence is not relevant, they are not obliged to include it in the check.
Although an applicant’s social media history may seem unimportant, real world experience shows that this is not the case. In a competitive job market, the type of thing an applicant posts on their social site could make the difference between getting or not getting a job. Sensible advice would seem to be, if you wouldn’t want your present employer to see what you’re posting, nor would you want a future boss to see it.