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According to research carried out by the CIPD in 2013 2 in 5 employers were looking at candidate’s online activity at some stage during the recruitment process. In 2014 this figure grew to approximately 91%.


The key stages were highlighted to be whilst reviewing a CV ‘to decide on interview invitation’, post interview to ‘dig a little deeper’, and at offer stage ‘just to be sure’. The same research also identified that nearly all the employers that were looking on the web had failed to inform their candidates that they would be carrying out these types of online checks in-house.

It is widely accepted in the UK that employers have a need and desire to learn more about candidates. With so many risks linked to employees’ use of the web such as bullying, brand damage, and leakage of sensitive data, now more than ever employers are taking time to carry out online social profile checks and to review social media accounts, blog sites, professional networks, shopping habits and personality trends across the internet before reaching a decision on who is the best person for the job.

Who is at Risk?

Being able to ‘dig deeper’ using online social profile checks and searches can reveal nuggets of truth that lie behind a CV, often these nuggets of truth complete the jigsaw puzzle and can sway an employment decision either way. The problem with in-house online checks is that in their crudest form e.g. a Google or Facebook search using a first and last name, they are riddled with gaps, inaccuracies, mistakes and misrepresentations; not to mention these checks give an employer access to protected characteristics such as race, sexual orientation and marital status which is a clear breach of UK HR and recruitment legislation. These over simplified checks expose the employer to claims of subjectivity or discrimination during the recruitment process.  

Not only are these in-house online social profile checks breaching legislation linked to protected characteristics but they are often incomplete or being carried out on the wrong person. Research carried out by our company during 2013 identified that typically in-house searching only focused on the 'big 3’ - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In contrast, and as thought leaders in Online Social Profiling,  the SP Index can reveal that from the hundreds of social networking sites and millions of pages across the web on average candidates can be identified on 500% more sites over and above the more established and most popular sites that would be the focus of any in-house checks. These results can be categorised into a digital footprint of 7 components - blogging, shopping, personal data, social networks, professional networks, news articles, and search engines.

We recently carried out a social media ‘health check’ for one of our clients across 42 employees and discovered that the digital footprint of this group included more than 54 individual websites. Even for this small number of employees the results demonstrate that an employer would have needed to screen 54 sites for every person (instead of only the big 3) in order to gain a complete picture of an individual from their online profile.

What Does Social Media Tell Us?

The checking of candidate’s online activity is now common place in the UK. The worrying thing is that with the introduction of these inaccurate in-house searches there has been no guidance, training or support about how to objectively interpret the content that is visible.

Research carried out by IBM in 2013 demonstrated that it is now possible to discover if a candidate is ‘work-shy’ or ‘lazy’ by analysing their tweets. IBM research showed that there is a direct correlation between web based content across social networks such as Twitter and their off line behavioural styles.

Research carried out by SP Index in 2012 identified that there is a 67% chance that a candidate who is identified as having online bullying tendencies will transfer such traits into a working environment. Other independent studies have shown that to get a reasonable match for someone’s personality they need to assess just 50 Tweets.

When considering this activity as part of the pre-employment screening process the clear problem is that it is impossible to review 50 posts across every site that a person is active in order to reveal the whole truth - not unless the online social profile check is outsourced to a specialist Online Social Profiling business and the checks can be carried out in a controlled, fair, compliant and all-inclusive way.



Using a 3rd Party To Carry Out Checks - The Benefits

Online Social Profiling is a complex, detailed activity and when being used as a pre-employment check it is important to get accurate and conclusive results. By using a 3rd party an employer is safe in the knowledge that the candidate will be verified accurately, they will never get the results of the wrong John Smith for example due to the specialised technology used and the matrix searching techniques that validate accuracy. The candidate is checked for integrity issues such as incomplete details in their application or inconsistent details relating to personal data such as address, age, and contact details.

By using a 3rd party to carry out an online social profile check for your business there are some obvious time savings. For example, it takes only 90 seconds to order an online social profile check for 1 person but in practice it can take an employer at least 90 seconds just to log into Facebook and accurately search and find the right individual. After investing only 90 seconds of your time, a specialist Online Social Profiling company will carry out research on your behalf and deliver accurate and objective results back to you within just a few days. Imagine the amount of time that your business has wasted searching online during the last year!

Businesses that use specialist Online Social Profiling companies have seen substantial return on their investment. Weatherbys Bank Ltd were nominated finalists in the HR Excellence Awards 2014 in the category “Most Innovative Use of HR Technology” due to their use of the SP Index system.  

“Staff and reputation are two of the most valuable assets of our company.  Our investment in Online Social Profiling provides a useful benchmark, which together with other metrics, ensure our staff remain our highest priority.  Their success ultimately promotes the company's reputation for integrity and longevity.” said Andrew Turberville Smith, COO Weatherby’s Bank Ltd.

This same business saw a quantifiable return of £60,000 from a £3,800 investment into the services of a specialist Online Social Profiling company during 2014.


Consult With An Expert

The evolution of Online Social Profiling during the last 18 months makes it the perfect time to strengthen and modernise your pre-employment checking processes. Online Social Profiling is bursting with benefits that awaits your organisation and the SP Index can offer advice and support to help you realise these. We are equipped to assess your existing needs and processes and will support you to introduce compliant use of Online Social Profiling for FREE!

To book a no obligation appointment with or a callback from an SP Index representative please contact or call 0845 177 0700.


The SP Index is a thought leader in Online Social Profiling and is the UK's leading supplier of compliant profiling.


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