Safer recruitment: online candidate checks
Checking social media and online presence as part of safer recruitment practices was introduced as a 'should' in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022 and as we all know with KCSIE, a 'should' is really an instruction to 'go and do'.
The process itself is quite simple, but it can be difficult to know where to start when 'online' is such a broad term.
Your process to carry our online checks should look something like this:
- Inform candidates that social media checks will be made as part of recruitment process
- Run checks on shortlisted candidates
- Highlight any concerns or queries
- Keep records of checks made
- Discuss any concerns with the candidate as part of the interview process
This can be as simple as adding a line to your application form that states that online checks will be made on shortlisted candidates.
Ideally a member of staff not involved in the interviewing process will carry out the checks so that recruitment isn't biased by a view of a candidate's private life, unless it's relevant to employment.
Checks should be simple to carry out by searching for a shortlisted candidate's name and current job title and then checking any publicly available social media sites, blogs or websites for information that suggests that the candidate may pose a safeguarding risk, reputational risk or that they are unqualified for the job they have applied for. If no public profiles are available, then the check has still been carried out.
A LinkedIn profile is also a useful tool to cross-check dates and employment gaps on an application form.
Highlighting any concerns or queries
Concerning content can include blatant drug or alcohol abuse, (though candidates are allowed to have a private life and photos of a night out with the girls or guys is not automatically a cause for concern) radical or unsuitable views or anything that trips the safeguarding alarm.
Queries and concerns should be noted and passed to the recruitment team ask for clarification during interview. Only a very obvious, safeguarding risk should result in the removal of a candidate from the short list.
Records of searches should be made, listing the candidates name, what search terms were used and the result of the searches 'Facebook account set to private' or 'xxxxxxx on xxxxx website raised as a concern'. These then sit as part of the recruitment records.
Concerns and queries raised by the check can be questioned at interview in the same way that date gaps in application forms are discussed. Best practice for school staff with regards to locking down social media may also be mentioned at this point!
Carrying out online checks on candidates is an important part of the safer recruitment process; as people put more and more information online, it gives recruiters the chance to catch issues which may not be as obvious in an interview situation where candidates are on their best behaviour. Just remember that an individual's private life is no concern of the recruitment process unless it poses a safeguarding or reputational risk to the school.
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