Media Screening: Avoid Brand Damage From a Bad Hire

Particularly for executive hires, it is imperative that you know more about your candidates than what they give you on a resume or in an interview.

By Bill Tate, President, HR Plus

In today’s economy, where jobs are still scarce and the competition for open positions is fierce, how does a company know it has selected the perfect candidate for an executive position? Sure, you have completed numerous face-to-face interviews; the candidate has passed the background check, fingerprinting, and drug testing; and references have been called. But what else should you know?

We are all familiar with the story of the Yahoo CEO who took on his role in early 2012, only to be dismissed when stories arose that he padded his resume with an embellished college degree. Unfortunately, no industry is immune to the possibility of these inflated resumes, even at the C-suite level.

Hiring at the executive level needs to be thorough and precise. Often these individuals become the face and primary representation of your company. As a voice for the company, executives often appear in print, television, and online media outlets. You want your company to carry a positive brand image, and this can be damaged quickly with a bad hire. Therefore, it is imperative that you know more about your candidates than what they give you on a resume or in an interview.

Many executive screening packages only look at qualifications, work history, education, and public records. To help develop the “big picture,” many companies are looking to add media screening when hiring at the executive level. Media screening is a comprehensive search through various databases to access thousands of news sources, including newspapers, trade publications, professional journals, articles, and transcripts. The results of this search can include award nominations and other achievements by the applicant, and community and industry association involvement, business and job disputes, references to criminal activity, or other potentially negative information.

Is Media Screening the Same as Social Media Screening?

The simple answer is no.

Media screening practices go beyond what the potential employee shares with you during the interview but don’t cross the line into the “personal” aspect of social media checks.

Media screening pulls back all results from published items and periodicals that include the individual’s name and other defined criteria. This part of the screening process can help you see the kind of person you are hiring beyond the office setting. It is important to keep in mind that this executive has the potential to help or harm your brand.

Recently, Kean University President Dawood Farahi was questioned on the validity of his resume after he claimed he had written about various topics for peer-reviewed journals. However, those written pieces were never seen. Upon further investigation, other inconsistencies in his resume were brought to light.

Media searches can complement your background screening efforts by providing information about incidents or investigations that may not be reflected in official records. Has the individual been unfavorably portrayed in the news? Is he or she involved with an organization that has a conflict of interest with your company?

Media screens also highlight the positives about potential hires that might not come through in the interview process. Do they volunteer? Have they taken part in speaking engagements? Are they thought leaders in the industry on a specific topic?

Social media screening is a controversial topic; however, some companies are still utilizing this method as part of their total vetting process. Social networks provide employers with more information about job candidates than most hiring managers wish to take on. Sorting through the true and false of a personal social media profile can become a job task all on its own. There is always the possibility of same names and false identities. The same issues apply to a basic Google search.

Employers need to weigh the information that has been ‘published’ versus what has been “posted.”

Is Media Screening Reliable?

Broadening your screening for executives is essential to making a good hiring decision. Media screening is just one part of the bigger picture, including litigation screening, corporate affiliation searches, bankruptcy records, and even tax liens.

Many companies do not know they have these additional screening features available to them, but these extra searches could be a brand differentiator. Remember, you are hiring a person, not just a skill set. It is important to understand the information that has been provided by or about your executive candidate, and media screening can help you do just that. Media screening is a reliable, thorough, and efficient way to know how your candidate has been portrayed and what issues or subjects they have been attached to.

A professional background screening vendor has access to periodical search engines and databases that can define, refine, and conduct your media screen. Taking this extra step provides due diligence for the organization and may help avoid costly brand damage.

Bill Tate is president of HR Plus, whichoffers solutions for employment and background screening needs though a secure Web interface that can be customized to meet clients’ needs and integrated into most human resources workflows. Core services include background screening, drug testing, and fingerprinting. For more information, visit

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