Hiring new employees is a big move in a small business. It is also an increasingly challenging process, as an estimated 47% of SMEs currently struggle to find qualified applicants for open positions.
Not only this, but the smaller your business is, the more each new hire impacts your corporate culture, customer experience, and bottom line. How can you be certain that the person you're hiring will work hard and be loyal to the firm?
Fortunately, most of the information you need to make a good decision is available online, but before you head out to research a candidate, you should know the law and what to look for:
Before you start digging around in your candidates' public records, make sure you know the laws in your state. By law, you must have written consent before you do a background check on a candidate, you must inform candidates of the source of any information that impacts your decision, and you must not discriminate illegally.
As you thumb through their digital footprint, you're going to learn things about each applicant that you wouldn't be allowed to ask in an interview. Marital status, ethnicity, age, children, disabilities, and other facts will come to light, for instance. Are you fully prepared to set that information aside in your decision-making? It is illegal to discriminate based on these factors regardless of where you learn the information.
What to Look for on Social Media
People's social media presence is often more personal than professional, so you may need to overlook some silliness in that realm. However, you want to find a candidate who uses the internet responsibly and appears serious and ethical in their online behavior.
Look for job seekers who seem interested in their industry and career even during their leisure time and who seem to have their personal lives under control. On LinkedIn and Facebook, see if they participate in discussions and groups related to their industry. On Twitter, look for signs that the person is able to engage positively with a wide variety of people and companies. There's no harm in looking at people's public posts, as long as you don't use information you find there to discriminate illegally.
Full Background Checks
If you want to go beyond social media, you can do a full pre-employment background check. A thorough background check in some industries might include a credit check, credentials verification, and police inquiry. In other cases, checking public records for arrests, lawsuits, bankruptcies, and other red flags is enough.
The scope of the check depends on your industry and on the position you're filling. Will your new staff member be interacting with vulnerable populations or handling financial transactions? Or are you simply looking for a stable individual? It's not difficult to do these checks in-house for a very reasonable cost, but many human resource professionals prefer to hire an outside firm for liability reasons, special expertise, or simply to outsource the work.
Staying inside the law while researching a potential hire is mostly a matter of being familiar with laws that govern discrimination and fair credit. If you're not familiar with these laws, though, you might want to outsource the process.