Pre-Employment Screenings: Is Your Social Life Hurting Your Career?

Whether you’re casually or doggedly conducting your job search, know that with each resume and job application you submit, your online persona becomes fair game for prospective employers hoping to gain greater insight into who you are and what sort of life you lead. But, what if you haven’t even applied for any jobs?

It’s no secret that the frequency of which employers scour the Internet during pre-employment screenings has risen significantly, but surprisingly, this fact still isn’t enough to convince everyone to cultivate an online presence they’d actually want companies to see.

Online reputation management firm Reppler conducted a 2011 survey which revealed that a whopping 91% of recruiters had researched applicants on social media sites. Additionally, 70% of these recruiters reporting that they rejected candidates based on information they viewed online.

 

For Your Eyes Only?

When researching candidates online, 76% of recruiters visit Facebook, 53% Twitter, and surprisingly, only 48% visit LinkedIn. Unfortunately, simply upping your privacy settings and locking down your profile won’t always do the trick.  In fact, a distinct lack of an online presence may raise some red flags to employers.

 

Legal Implications

Companies that monitor the online activities of their employees and search for the disclosure of potentially negative or sensitive company information are nothing new in our digital age, but this type of activity doesn’t come without some scrutiny.

As the National Association of Colleges and Employers points out in a recent post, many employers will favor the needs of their company over the privacy of potential employees, referring to this practice as “the utilitarian approach of ethics.”

But because fair hiring concerns are paramount in today’s vetting process, companies who resort to random background searches in an effort to mitigate undesirables may risk violating both the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and discriminatory practices (although no laws currently govern Facebook).

“The FCRA firmly states that employers are required by law to notify job applicants and obtain consent before conducting any background check,” said Rita Zeidner in HR Magazine.  Otherwise, recruiters or employers may instead make a snap decision based on too little or vague information, resulting in an improper vetting process.

Les Rosen, a former California deputy district attorney says, “Under the FCRA, online searches should be performed only after the candidate has been offered a job, and only with that person’s permission.”

Additionally, Henderson|Franklin-Attorneys at Law warn, “Unfettered searches of candidates’ online profiles can put an employer in the same difficult position as if they had asked the candidate an improper question in an interview.”   Employers may, however, legitimately obtain online information about prospective candidates, as long as they avoid parsing out, or having the perception of having parsed out, this otherwise protected information they have obtained.

But employers may have found a caveat to this process, allowing them to regain the upper hand.  Companies seeking the deets on prospective employees – while sidestepping any personal impropriety within the privacy, discrimination or protected class realms – are now turning to agencies such as Social Intelligence Corporation to safeguard these and other red-flag domains protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from being shared.

Social Intelligence Corp offers comprehensive screening and monitoring services, and scours the web of social media, individual blogs, and thousands of other sources for insight into employment and organizational risks.

So until the legal boundaries surrounding social media and the hiring game become better defined – for both ends of the hiring spectrum – candidates and employers alike have a duty to tread cautiously, and put their best ‘search’ forward.

Where do you stand?  Should the information you post online permit prospective employers the right to judge you without your consent?

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career, resume