Is It Ethical For Employers To Factor In Online Profiles in Hiring Decisions?

facebook_drunks What happens when the pictures and content you post online for friends to see is also viewed by a potential employer?

The question has become of particular importance in recent years, where photos, profiles, and online commentary are being factored into who gets hired–and fired–in the workforce.

Close to 50% of companies report doing background checks on their candidates by searching through online content, and claim to have not hired candidates based on finding “provocative photographs,” “content about drinking or using drugs,” or even “poor communication skills” demonstrated on their online profiles. For recent college students joining the workplace, this is particularly a problem, because they often have this type of “unprofessional” content on their profiles from their time in school.

Finding this type of content online, says consultant Brad Karsh, makes employers question the applicants’ character:

“A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have? Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?”

Many students may not even be aware that this content is being factored into their job application process.  One student interviewed by The New York Times found that, unbeknownst to him, the info he had up on the web was alienating him from potential employers.  After not hearing back from any of the jobs he applied to, he followed his friend’s suggestion to Google himself, and realized that a satirical essay he wrote years before called “Lying All The Way To The Top” appeared under his name, and was possibly keeping employers from returning his inquiries.  After taking it down, he says, he started getting offers.

Interestingly, this student didn’t think employers would factor in something like an old essay he’d posted on the web into his eligibility as a job candidate:

“I never really considered that employers would do something like (search for me online)” he said. “I thought they would just look at your résumé and grades.”.

Professional networking site Ziggs.com CEO Tom Demello says that students may never know this information affected their eligibility — they just won’t get a call back.  And for those who assume they’re safe as long as their profiles are set to private, think again, he says. “Whatever you post on the web…it’s public.  There’s a reason it’s called the “world wide web”:

Employers often find ways to access the sites, either by creating a profile from the company, or by using other employees in the same university networks to look up applicants.  Sometimes, depending on your privacy settings, images and content are available simply by Googling your name.

And what you share online remains a liability even after you’re hired for a job. The Wall Street Journal reported about a woman who vented on Facebook about her dissatisfaction with work life, posting in her status: “OMG I HATE MY JOB!”  Her boss’s status response? “You also seem to have forgotten that you have 2 weeks left on your 6 month trial period.  Don’t bother coming in tomorrow..and yes, I’m serious.”

Is it ethical for employers to evaluate potential or current employees based on the information they present online?

One student I interviewed disagreed that employers should be able to use this information in the job search:

“I don’t think it’s fair for employers to look at personal profiles to judge their applicants.  The information on those profiles has no bearing on how the person will do in their job, and it’s a violation of that person’s privacy to factor in their personal lives into whether they can do the work. People put pictures up for their friends to see, not to reflect on how they will do their job.”

A contributor to Business Week’s “Debate Room” blog echoed some of these views:

Job seekers already have to contend with background screens, drug tests, credit checks, and verification of employment history, education, and income. Is adding an ideological litmus test of an online identity really necessary? What should companies care about more, the professional skills and merit of an employee or what her favorite beer is?

But others believe that information posted online is fair game to be considered.  Another student I asked said,

“It clearly reflects on a person’s judgment and character if there are pictures of them drinking at parties, or saying inappropriate things on their profile.  It would also reflect on that company as well to have an employee with that sort of information online.  People should expect to be held responsible for their online presence because your profile reflects on who you are as a person and the types of decisions you make.  And that’s fair game for an employer to know.”

To me, this issue brings up a broader question of what’s “private” and “public” in the age of the internet.  It’s interesting that the first student said that people post their pictures “for their friends to see” but not to be viewed by someone like an employer.  I wonder, can this distinction be made?  Can one expect anything posted on the web to remain “private” in this way? Perhaps a shift in thinking in order — an acknowledgement  that  social networking sites are not only a social venue for people to connect and share interests, but also a public or semi-public forum where the information one shares is subject to be evaluated in a variety of capacities by those, including employers, who can access it online.

I think Tom Demello (interviewed in the video above) is right that the current generation of social networkers aren’t truly aware of how what we post online is going to impact us.  Are we all too comfortable sharing, and only going to learn the hard way — by not getting a job, for example — to be more careful about what we post online?  Will our approach to social networking shift as we get older, and the information we have posted trails us into our futures?

Questions:

Is it ethical for potential employers to factor in content from Facebook and Myspace profiles when hiring potential employees?

Do you think about your ‘digital footprint’, and how the information you are posting now might affect you in the future?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Want some tips on how to keep your information private on Facebook?  Check out this article.

41 Responses to “Is It Ethical For Employers To Factor In Online Profiles in Hiring Decisions?”

  1. kaiyen says:

    Here’s another question: what if the person you are considering for a position has information on his or her Facebook profile that could put you in a position of a criminally negligent hire?

  2. Sam says:

    In a functioning job market all available information is being factored into who gets hired. The efficiency is contingent upon employers learning about people before they’re hired. If efficient markets are not ethical, I don’t know what is!

    Digital footprints are vast and comprise a really interesting record of life in our times. The scores of email messages and text messages that flow between important decision-makers will be a ripe resource for future historical scholarship.

    Anybody know anything about the extent to which saved (and user-deleted) data can be used against a person in the court of law?

  3. ltong29 says:

    It is ethical and important for companies to factor in social networking when looking to hire an individual. If a potential candidate for a job is reckless, that could put a company in danger. By screening potential employees, a company is taking actions to ensure that it does not make a catastrophic mistake.

    As technology becomes more and more important in our lives, digital footprints will become to. The internet is a very dangerous place. Thousands of identities are stolen daily. Therefore, it can be assumed that the digital footprint should not only be monitored, but scrutinized by the individual leaving them. For example, if I wanted to buy something from a person on a forum, I’m not gonna leave my credit card number and billing address in plain sight. As for the future, the amount of digital transactions is increasing annually. However, we must be careful as our current encryption technology is good at best. Caution and scrutiny must be taken in order to prevent digital footprints causing trouble in the future.

  4. Nancy says:

    Society has become a lot more transit say since the days of “Mad Men” to use the popular Television show as an example. Where before your ‘background’ check was simply the fact you grew up in the same area you were getting a job, and your family name and the church you went to said enough to garner you a job, or gave you a hard time to where you had to ‘make a name for yourself’ to stand out from what ever your family’s reputations (say the drunk uncle syndrome) stood in the way of you becoming more successful. Fact is, there used to be more, social ways that while not really spoken out loud, were used as a daily known thing, called gossip. Did your mother have you just a bit too soon after the wedding? Is your skin a little too dark to be white? I think they buy just a little too much at the local bar.? Was that your old man talking to the pretty miss smith down the road? For a refresher course, watch “Mad Men” shudder… Racism and all that shows how background checks were done back then.

    While we have, thanks to technology and social shifts moved on, gossip, well that still goes on (only its called background checks now) and it simply went high tech. No one ever really “took a man at his word,” because usually the man (or woman) was already known by their reputation. So things like My Space, and Facebook is basically your way of saying, “This is my reputation”. If you want to be known as a Party Animal and your various mischievous exploits, I am sure they will garner invites to all sorts of things. Problem is, do you want your Mom’s Boss to know? If you think along those lines, even if you never work for anywhere near where you grew up, that can be a good guideline. If you don’t care if your Mom knows, would you care if her Boss knows and she had to face questions about her straying off spring? Yes, they DO ask. (grumble). So what is a party animal to do?

    Make sure your Facebook, MySpace, or any other social network that is for you and your party group stays strictly private. Easier said that done and yes that cuts down the fun… Put up another more public social network of all the things that make you look good. Showing the various volunteer activities you and your friends do (drinking all the time really is lame you know), show yourself giving Your loving Nona a kiss on her birthday, stuff like that. Express ideas along the line of your major that you can defend if asked about and not just mouthing off. In other words, give them something worth talking about and discovering about you. Then the partying won’t be so glaring if it is found. Everyone lets their hair down now and then (me, its Science Fiction Conventions, now THAT something employers can raise eyebrows about and yes mine already know). But if you show yourself to be well rounded, balanced , etc. I find most employees will ‘look the other way’ IF your partying does not show excessive or illegal activities.

    Yes, I am a Mom, can you tell? As for weather its ethical or not, no its not. That does not mean it does not happen. People have the right to protect themselves, yes, but I also believe that people have the right not to be judge before the have a chance to shake your hand.
    Nancy Louise

  5. Bill says:

    As Scott McNealy at Sun said, “Privacy on the Web? Get over it!”

  6. jsmurphy says:

    In “A Slice of Life,” Rheingold talks about freedom online for our future. He says the future of virtual communities is connected to the future of everything else, starting with the most precious thing people have to gain or lose — political freedom. Rheingold is right on with his comment. I think the virtual public has to come in the middle with this argument of too much or too little freedom. Obviously, the public has enjoyed virtual communities like facebook and myspace, but when users lose control of who can look at their information, a line is crossed. Granted, users take that chance, but are we fully aware that what we put up on our pages were going to be looked at by our future employers? I don not think that was the purpose of facebook, and users should have the priviledge of negating view from the public.
    Regarding the question of whether employers have the ethical right to view our pages, I think they absolutely do not. Would anyone like one to come in to your house and snoop to see what you’re like? No, one would think that is an invasion of privacy. I know web is a different playing field, but I still think the employee needs to give consent for public viewing.

    • Spencer Christiansen says:

      This is a difficult topic because the Internet is supposed to be free for use to all people and if cut off employers from using Facebook, one could argue that that is violating their freedom as people trying to run an efficient business. Viewing the Internet is much different than assessing someone’s personality, and if employers want to base their employee hiring system off of Facebook, then they should pay the consequences for judging books by the cover. I don’t think that Facebook pages are an accurate portrayal of a person’s life, but I do believe that employers should have the right to view as they please. Bottom line, we are accountable for what we choose to share, but it may not be to the advantage of the employer to judge people through Facebook.

  7. Tyler Ichikawa says:

    Is it ethical for potential employers to factor in content from Facebook and Myspace profiles when hiring potential employees? I don’t believe that it is ethical for potential employers to factor in content you may have on your Facebook or Myspace, and use it against the potential hiring of you. Just because a person may have pictures of themselves drinking at a party, does not make them any worse of an employee. Some of the smartest people I know, are also some of the heaviest drinkers I know. What a person chooses to do outside of work, should have no bearing on how they will perform on the job. It’s simple: people have their work life and they have their social life. Now, if it appears that their social lives may be negatively affecting their job performance, then there may be cause to look into their “outside life.” However, even though I am promoting that employers not take into consideration people’s personal profiles, I am not saying that people should post whatever they want. Discretion should always be used when posting information on the internet, because you don’t know who it may effect.

  8. jzarate says:

    I believe that it is not ethical for potential employers to factor in content from Facebook and Myspace profiles when hiring potential employees because it is like an invasion of the employees’ personal life. It is true that since people post their information online, then their privacy is going to be somewhat invaded. But, I think that people have their profiles in private mode for a reason, which reason is because they do not want other people to read and view their information, with the exception of their friends. Now, if the boss searches through the employees’ myspace or facebook then he or she is making a bad turn. This means that the boss does not trust the the employee will do a good job or would not be a good candidate; if the boss have doubts then might as well not higher the potential employ rather than looking over their profile before hiring him or her. This comes along with some stereotypes. Ive seen many cases where minorities have applied for a job and attained it. Later they(some of my minority friends) tell me, “After a long time working for my company, my boss confessed to me that before he or she hired me, my boss checked my background information, especially my myspace and facebook.” This means that just because the employers saw the employ that was a minority, then he or she felt the need to check the employees’ myspace or facebook. I feel that we and especially employers should not view others’ peoples’ privacy because it is going against their privacy; also, this is why we have interviews so that the employers can have an idea of what they are up against when making the decision to whether or not hire the potential employee.

  9. BrandiB says:

    The question of whether it is ethical for employers to factor online profiles in hiring decisions dates back to the old age arguments of control and privacy. In the arena of the World Wide Web, one is in control of very little although he may be led to believe that he is in control of most things. With the recent surfacing and increased use of social networking sites, users latched on to these new innovations as no one was able to foretell the consequences these sites may have on the individual and society as a whole. I hope that people will always have the option of keeping their social life private from their work life. Employers using social networking sites as a means of a type of background check is targeted at younger interviewees. Though older persons are becoming more acquainted with social networking sites, the people who are most actively using them and most expected to use them are younger adults. If a 40-year-old walks into an interview, is it likely that the employer went to see what was posted on their Facebok if they even have one? Most likely not. If a young adult straight out of college walks into an interview, most likely the employer will be more inclined to search the person on Facebook. I do not think that searching future employees on social networking sites is purely for the benefit of the company. I almost feel like they are hoping to find something that will give them reasons to question the person’s character. If a profile is set to private, the person clearly wants to keep the content on their site between him and his friends. There are older people applying for jobs who may like to enjoy a drink or two or three every night but this may be completely concealed during an interview and not found on a social networking site because they do not have one. If a picture with a young adult is seen with alcohol, the perception of him may be changed. Since every one interviewing for a job does not have a social networking site, I do not think it is fair game for employees to search future employees on these sites. I also think it is a violation of privacy. Someone’s private life does not determine how they will perform at their job so I think traditional methods should be used for now when evaluating a future employee.

  10. RMWells says:

    I think companies looking at a person’s Facebook as part of a background check is ethical. If I am an employer looking into two different candidates with similar skills and credentials, my next move is to look a little deeper into their character. How do I do this? Background checks. Social networking sites like Facebook are excellent ways to find out more about a person; what are they like? What do they do when they are not working? Does it look like this person is responsible? All of these are valid questions that companies should consider before hiring anyone.

    I know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding this topic and many people my age are outraged that they are being judged on their Facebook profiles by future employers. The fact is that it is our responsibility as future employees to make ourselves as marketable as possible to companies looking to hire us in the future. Put pictures on your Facebook page that do not have you drinking at a party and don’t post anything that could be held against you in the future (political party, religion, etc.).

    It is also important to remember that once companies hire a person, that person now represents the company. So when hiring someone, employers want someone who is a positive reflection on the company. If you go the bar with a couple of co-workers on a Friday night, the company wants you to be a good representation of their business. Employers can find out a lot of this information about you from your Facebook profile.

    The important thing to remember, regardless if you agree with companies using Facebook as a background check, is to make your Facebook profile clean and presentable to future employers because they will look at it, whether you want them to or not.

    • Grace Ogata says:

      I agree with all of your points. If a person is serious enough about getting a job, then he or she should be mature enough to know what is or is not appropriate for social networking sites. Many people argue that employers looking at potential employees’ Facebooks and MySpaces is an invasion privacy, but when a person makes the conscious decision to create a social networking site, he or she must know that they are making their life public. If people want to be completely anonymous in today’s world, it is almost impossible, but not having a social networking page period is a good place to start.

  11. egonzalez says:

    I strongly believe that it is unethical for potential employers to factor in content from Facebook and Myspace profiles when hiring potential employees. I think that people’s content on social networks do not reflect how they act in a professional setting. One of the reasons people are part of the virtual world is to act in a way that they cannot in “real life.” Most of the content posted on Facebook or Myspace is set to “private” for that same reason. People realize that inappropriate behavior (posting photos of alcohol use or vulgar comments) is not appealing therefore this information is private or viewable to friends only. Furthermore, I think that most users are not aware of the fact that companies factor in content from their profiles. A great number of users are too young to think of the possible unfavorable outcomes that might result from posting this content. I know that the only reason I now think twice about posting inappropriate content is because of my technology courses in college.

  12. BonnieGiven says:

    Personally, I feel like there is no easy way to deal with this idea of employers viewing potential employees Facebook and Myspace pages. In actuality, In general, I believe that people should understand that posting information (pictures, comments, personal information), on a public website is a personal choice. No one HAS to create a facebook or myspace page. In fact, there are people in the world who choose not to involve themselves in social websites because it is such an invasion of privacy. One important concept brought up in the article is that ” “Whatever you post on the web…it’s public. There’s a reason it’s called the “world wide web” (Demello). People are aware of how fast information can travel across the web. To say that the “didn’t know” that employers, or others, couldn’t see what was on their site because it was set to public is oblivious behavior. As a Facebook member, I know that even though my profile is set to private there are still ways for people who aren’t my friends to access some of my information. While this isn’t overly uncomfortable, I take this risk to be connected with my friends and family. I know that it is likely that my future employers will look at my Facebook and I definitely believe this is ethical behavior. People should be careful with what the post on the web. The opposing argument is that employers should stay out of potential employees “private life”. However, these websites aren’t private in any way. If an employer were to come into your house and look through your pictures and private documents, this would be extremely unethical and crossing the line. On the other hand, employers have the right to look at Facebook and Myspace pages because they want the best and most responsible workers. People who disagree with this should probably reconsider posting information about themselves on the web. In our technological-centered world, it is so easy to know about someone at the touch of a button. This action should not be limited to employers who are doing their best to run successful, safe businesses.

    I do think about my “digital footprint”, but probably not as much as I should. Recently, I went through my pictures and untagged myself in some of the one’s I felt were inappropriate. Still, I realized that even I am untagged in certain pictures, this does not mean those pictures no longer exist, (especially if another friend created the album and I can’t delete it). I am a hard-working student and plan to have a solid career in the future. I also am a typical college student who enjoys spending time and having fun on the weekends. Pictures are so common among people my age today and my friends and I take a lot of them. I have been thinking more about being more careful of the kind of impression I am giving off on Facebook. I would be devastated if I was denied a specific job just because of a dumb picture I took when I was a nineteen-year-old at a party. While these pictures may seem trivial at the time, I am beginning to realize that they could effect how I am portrayed by future potential employers. I plan on being more careful with the choices I make on social websites, especially with the sorts of pictures I post. It is not worth it to me to have my career life be ruined because of a picture I thought would be funny or amusing for my friends to see.

  13. rachel says:

    I’m torn between two sides of the argument: whether people should be able to preserve the privacy of their pages on social networking sites as something exclusive from their work life, or if anything someone posts on the internet is fair game for anyone. I do agree that the sort of information presented on these sites is exclusively social, and cannot be deemed an accurate reflection of a person’s specific work ethic, attitudes, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, and goals. However, if you are to work for a company, you in a sense represent that company—in and outside of the workplace. If the information you post online is perceived by the public in a certain way, the public may attribute your decision-making and character to the image of the company you work for. I think this is the reason most employers assess these kind of background checks in the first place—to preserve and protect the image of their company.

    But is it really a question of a potential employee’s personal character, or of what he or she is willing to expose to others publically? They could have been embodying a certain moral character by making all of those bad decisions earlier in life, but just not have posted them on the internet—if this is so, would their character still be in question? Would employers then have the right to, let’s say, interview potential employees’ family members and friends about the true nature of the person’s past experiences, tendencies, and attitudes? And what about personal information posted on semi-public forums? Should they be able to hack into email accounts? Online journals and blogs? If employers are allowed to tap into social networking sites, where are we willing to draw the line?

    I have been thinking a lot about my image on the internet, and how others may be perceiving and interpreting it. I, like many other college students, have a Facebook page with loads of pictures displaying, admittedly, arguably incriminating information. I realize that despite my privacy settings, my page can be accessed by practically anyone (after I got really, really bored one day and decided to read Facebook’s Terms and Conditions…yeah). This heightened awareness and slight paranoia made me choose to detag all photos tagged of myself, just to make sure none of my displayed decision-making will come back to haunt me when I’m looking seriously for a job.

    It is difficult to predict what the impact of these social networking sites will have on future trends of job employment because these technologies are so new—we are truly the first generation to have to deal with these issues. I think people just need to be more aware of the information they post online, and acknowledge that social networking sites aren’t just “for friends.” The internet is global and public, and it would be naïve to think otherwise.

  14. Joshua Dunn says:

    I don’t think employers should consider content from Facebook and MySpace when making hiring decisions, and I certainly don’t consider this practice ethical. I believe the content on these social networking sites is essentially worthless information; photos and informal blog posts are not helpful in determining someone’s occupational skill set, work ethic, or overall ability to represent the company. By making judgments of character based on online activity that is unclear in its full context, employers make unfair decisions based on faulty premises. This is in no way an ethical way to treat potential employees.

    While I do process the content I post online through a mental filter (one obviously doesn’t want to offend anyone with posted content, or at least I do not), I never worry about how my posts might be interpreted by future employers, because how am I supposed to know what they’ll perceive as positive or negative to my employment prospects? Some material is obviously damning; anyone who shares pictures of themselves that present a leisurely lifestyle is susceptible to judgment. But what about all the other material on Facebook and MySpace? There’s certainly a ton of information that we share that is largely neutral in the way it characterizes us. If I say my favorite genre of music is alternative rock, can any sort of significant judgment be made about me in relation to how I might perform a job? I seriously doubt it. What people say to me on these social networks (as well as what I say to them) is equally as useless in forming any sort of accurate characterization.

  15. greenxp54 says:

    I was of the opinion that if the privacy settings are set up right then I probably would not have anything to worry about but now days with the economy yhe way it is why take chances? Of course it is like murphy’s law-if I didn’t want them to know they would find out and vice versa. I do have an interest with a site called fastfanpageskiller.com David B.

  16. Spencer Christiansen says:

    Whether or not one believes in the presence of technological determinism and technocentrism, it is clear that with the evolution of social networking, i.e. Facebook, our society is at least moving towards a more technocentric future. Yes, we have the ability to communicate and share at every moment of the day, but are there downsides to using Facebook as a representation of oneself? Facebook can promote narcissism and have psychological effects on a person, but there are also concrete examples of how Facebook has affected one’s ability to get a job among other physical effects, as explained in this article. In this case, it is possible to use reductionism and view a person’s inability to land a job as the distinct effect from the cause of Facebook. Clearly people, especially college students, need to raise awareness of who is viewing their online material, but is it even ethical for employers to be using Facebook pages as a part of a person’s job application in the first place?
    In “Employers Using Facebook for Background Checking: Is it legal?”, George Lenard outlines the legality behind internet tracking. He cites the law against discrimination when doing business, as well as the invasion of privacy being the two main arguments against the legality of background checking using Facebook. “An employer may view more negatively photos of an African-American male, beer in hand, hanging out at a bar with a hip-hop DJ than photos of a white boy, also with beer in hand, hanging out at a rock ‘n roll bar with a bunch of white boys wearing frat T-shirts.” Lenard doesn’t necessarily have a problem with Internet tracking himself, but if personal judgment and, thus discrimination come into play, then the background check is unjust. So it is therefore difficult to trust the morality of the employer when given the power to check a person’s background through Facebook.
    Lenard continues to say that he “would advise applicants/employees to assume future employers will read everything you post,” but also explains that employers need to “ask how negative the information creating the negative impression is to do job performance.” He explains both extremes and addresses the issue with an unbiased stance, simply explaining the legality of the situation at hand. It seems that Facebook has negatively affected our society in that people take too much from a few pictures and posts, and it is sacrificing the true value of communication with the person itself. Overall, we must be careful what we post on the Internet, but with employers having the power to search their potential employees background instantly, those employers need to work on viewing and judging with an open-mind.

  17. Grace Ogata says:

    I personally would not mind if an employer looked at my Facebook page when considering hiring me. I am Facebook friends with several family members, including my mom, as well as people from my church, so I am always cautious about what is on my Facebook. I make sure to untag myself from any pictures that may make people cringe, and avoid using profanity or offensive language. I do have some pictures of me drinking, but I am 21, and the pictures do not show me completely intoxicated.

    Employers must be cautious about using this method however. As noted in William P. Smith and Deborah K. Lidder’s 2010 article “You’ve been tagged! (Then again, maybe not): Employers and Facebook,” several people do not give accurate information on Facebook. For example, some people go by aliases, lie about their age, or even use fake or altered photos. This being said, employers should not completely rely on job candidates’ Facebook pages to help them make their decisions because there is a large possibility that the information they see on Facebook is false.

    In general, I believe that if a person is serious enough about applying to a job, then he or she should be mature enough to clean up his or Facebook any other social networking sites. People think that changing privacy settings in the solution from keeping unwanted visitors at bay, but in reality, anyone can access our information and pictures. If two people with the same qualifications are being considered for the same job, employers are much more likely to hire the person with a cleaned-up Facebook than the one with a Facebook full of party pictures. No matter what we think about the ethicality of employers checking Facebook, the reality is that they do, so job candidates must be careful about the information they put out on the Internet.

  18. Calley Stouffer says:

    In my opinion, I strongly believe that assessing a potential employee’s personal profile on online social networking sites it an invasion of privacy. Social networking sites were created to connect friends, family, and students from all over the world and to encourage them to share their stories. Much like an interactive journal, social networking sites allow individuals to express themselves within their chosen group of connections. When employers actively peruse social networking sites in search of any personal flaw or mistake of potential employees, it only scares potential employees out of using their profile as it is intended to be used. These social networking sites are meant to be a “social” space, not a “professional” space. By investigating potential employees social life over the Internet, employers are stifling the digital freedom our generation exercises. Just as it would be unacceptable for an employer to follow a potential employee around to bars or nightclubs, it is unacceptable for an employer to use what potential employees do in their free time against them.

    For decades now, the professional norm has been to accept a resume sent in by a potential employee, arrange an interview with said employee, and judge their demeanor and qualifications based on that interaction. Notice that nowhere in this process does the employer follow the interviewee home and base the decision to hire off of what the potential employee does once leaving the workplace. Investigating social networking sites for traces of irresponsibility completely disarms this process. Barring illegal activity, what potential employees do when the workday ends should not affect whether or not he or she is hired. Although I strongly disagree with the idea of using information from one’s personal life to judge professional qualifications, this is becoming the norm in the digital age. It is vital, however, to remember that just because information can be acquired now, does not mean it should be acquired at the will of the powerful with little to no regard for those being judged. If employers must use social networking sites to assess the character of a potential employee, it should be done with full disclosure. As Renee L. Waring and F. Robert Buchanan discussed in their research paper, Social Networking Web Sites: The Legal and Ethical Aspects of Pre-Employment Screening and Employee Surveillance, employers should publicly advertise to potential employees that they plan to use social networking profiles in the hiring process to give employees an opportunity to change irresponsible behaviors and protect themselves from illegal search and seizure of their private information by companies, which falls under the Fourth Amendment.

  19. Katherine Reamy says:

    Evaluation of online profiles and social networking sites as basis for job consideration blurs the line between one’s personal and one’s public life. Some see such actions as crossing the line between what is public and what is private. Whereas others state that if it is on the Internet, it is already made public, so why not consider and include it as a vital source of information? Online profiles are able to provide employers with an unedited version of their prospective job candidates, which comes in handy when selecting from an array of clients.
    Living and working in a society where jobs are already difficult to come by, employers have become extra careful whom they offer positions to. Just as resumes, and recommendations were the means of the past for gaining information on candidates, online profiles are now an alternate window on the individual. I believe that employers and companies do ethically have the right to take into consideration information on applicants’ online profiles. The article, “Using Social Networking Websites For Hiring Decisions: Legal and Ethical Considerations”, by attorneys: Peter G. Smith, and Whit L Wyatt, on May 28, 2010, states that over 79% of human resource departments incorporate online profiles and social media in their employment process, and 70% of these departments have rejected applicants on basis of what they found on such sites. The practice of scanning candidates online therefore already is a common practice by a vast number of employers. So whether or not it is truly ethical doesn’t matter, it occurs whether we approve or not, and as a society we need to adapt.
    Technology has provided us with an array of advances and with these advances, society also needs to adjust. Over a decade ago, media sites such as Facebook and MySpace were nonexistent; employers were not able to access such unedited information regarding their employees’ personal lives, however now such sites do exist and we need to adjust. As concerned citizens and employees it is important to edit our online appearance, just as much as our in-person appearance. How one prepares for an interview and strives to present the absolute best version of oneself, is important to consider in the online world as well. It is a completely justifiable and legal action for employers to look into their candidates’ background through a combination of means, so why not include social networking sites as well? This information is already made public for the world to see, why not take it into consideration before employment?
    Although some individuals may view this as an infringement upon our individual right to privacy, it is important to take into consideration that there are a number of things we can do about it. What is currently available on the Internet doesn’t always have to be, and the ideal image one wants to present to future employers is attainable; all it takes is the proper knowledge, editing, and an adjustment to the advanced role technology plays in both our society and lives.

  20. TAdams says:

    After reading the 2010 article: “Using Social Networking Websites For Hiring Decisions: Legal and Ethical Considerations” by Peter G. Smith and Whit L Wyatt. I learned that the fact is that Facebook and other social networking sites are currently a very useful free tool for employers. People have control on how their Facebook profile pictures appear and thus have certain agency over how people can perceive them on the internet. If people wish to post job-threatening information on their pages, it is their decision; they even have the choice to set their profile’s to private so that only their friends and family can see.

    Also, the direction that Technology seems to be going in implies the growing importance of these internet personas in everyday life and the workplace. Privacy will no longer exist on the internet, and it will all resort to people becoming more careful about what they get out there. As businesses tend to strive for maximum efficiency, applying a mechanistic model to people who have yet to understand the consequence of their fun on Facebook is somewhat cruel. However, it is fair to remember that there are those who have already taken advantage of this and have adjusted their profiles to promote their lack of insanity and boost their likelyhood of getting hired.

    • GReneris says:

      I like that you percieve that there will be no privacy on the internet. Who knows when it will come, but if something is put on the web, there is always the possibility of it being found.

      But shouldn’t businesses use every tool they have, even if it does mean looking up employees information and photos? They also have the right to know what type of person they are hiring. I don’t see it as “cruel”, I see it more as a smart choice when hiring someone. And if the person has harmful pictures, it should be the users responsibility to manage their own profiles online.

  21. Claire Ingebretsen says:

    The central issue being debated is should a distinction be made between a potential or current employees professional and private life. First off, an individual willingly surrenders a portion of their privacy when they post statuses and photos of themselves. Therefore, when employees object to being checked out on Facebook by their boss on the grounds of an individual’s right to privacy, it does not hold up. They cannot object to the violation of their perceived privacy, when they willingly gave it up. You are either going to be a private person and not take part in social networking, or you become part of a network and take the risk of being evaluated through your profile.
    Furthermore, I believe that an employer generally attempts to evaluate a candidate as “a whole person”. Meaning, the employer is going to base his/her opinion on a mixture of the candidate’s interview, resume, and references. These three sources all provide the employer with a sense of who the candidate is.
    Similarly, the individual seeks to give a sense of who they are as a person by posting statuses and pictures to a social networking site. I therefore think it is unfair and perhaps childish of candidates to object to being investigated, if what the employer discovers is unsavory and does not benefit the candidate. Also, a candidate is always looking for new ways to leave an impression of whom they are as a person, when being interviewed. Couldn’t their Facebook profiles, should it be investigated, also be a way to convey a positive image. An individual controls their profile, make it a positive profile, and you will give off a positive impression. This is what the article “You’ve been tagged! (Then again, maybe not): Employers and Facebook by William Smith is getting at. The article also calls for businesses and Facebook to more clearly define the rules, law, and regulations about employers investigating employees profiles. Essentially, there is too much of a gray area right now.

    • Victoria Rutherford says:

      I would like to agree with Claire and assume that the majority of employers “attempt to evaluate a candidate as ‘a whole person’.” I do believe that the majority of employers are balancing the Facebook information with a resume and references.
      I also agree with the fact that an informed individual will in fact realize that what they are putting on the Internet is public and how they need to display themselves is in a “positive” manner.
      Unfortunately, I think the majority of the public is misinformed and uneducated about issues dealing with the Internet and what they put on it. Although it may seem like common sense to an informed audience, I do think there are people who have not received the benefit of an education when it comes to the Internet and do not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions online. I would hope that as a society we might move towards the furthering the education of those misinformed in order to not only create a more responsible set of users, but also to raise the awareness of our “technological society” as a whole and thus reach clarification on the some of the vague laws, regulations, and societal norms we are currently struggling with.

  22. ecbrown says:

    While Facebook profiles affecting job acquisitions is an important issue, I see the bigger picture to be the idea that people with Facebook profiles are naive to the fact that the information they post to the web is not private. Personally, I always thought that if I made sure that all of my settings were correctly prohibiting anyone I didn’t know from seeing my information, then it was private. I have since realized and come to my senses that if I don’t want people to see certain things, I shouldn’t put them in a public place. So many people are oblivious to the implications of what they post online. A study done by Ethan Kolek and Daniel Saunders, published in the journal “Online Disclosure: An Empirical Examination of Undergraduate Facebook Profiles” showed that a majority of students attending a public University in the Northeast hadn’t restricted the access of their profiles to the staff at the University. Often times people don’t think about every single person that could possibly and is most likely using Facebook. Most people take into consideration their family members or close friends, however other figures such as professors or future employers are overlooked.

    Personally, I think that it is ethical for employers to use the information an individual has on their Facebook when considering said person for employment. What you post on your personal profile is a reflection of who you are. Who you are will potentially affect the company that hires you. In this way, it is completely logical that an employer would look to every aspect of the possible future employee’s personality and profile.

    In my own opinion, I think that if you don’t want someone to see you in a certain way, don’t put that representation in a public place– the internet. Many people would argue that your profile is private and it is unethical for people to use your information against you. I see this as somewhat ignorant. You have to understand that in this time and age, with the technological advances we have in our society, anyone can find out anything they want with enough time and money. We have to be extremely careful with the way we present ourselves on social media platforms because of the grim implications any mishap can have on our futures.

  23. Ashley Landers says:

    Whether the use of a person’s Facebook profile in hiring is ethical, I’m not exactly sure at this point. I do not believe that a Facebook profile should be the main factor or even a major factor in the decision to hire a person or not. However, in this technocentric world is it naive to believe that a person’s Facebook or other social media profile will not be a factor in their potential employment in some way. Thus, it is essential that people are aware that the information they think it “private” is actually not all that secretive. Technology has become “numbing and addictive” to us. With the current technological advancements, posting a status or a photo on Facebook can be done from your smart phone, and takes little to no time at all, essentially making posting something so easy you don’t even think about the consequences of posting it. I believe that everyone has a responsibility to make sure their Facebook profile is an appropriate, professional representation of themselves no matter their privacy settings.

    Recently however, privacy settings make absolutely no difference in what a future employer can see on your Facebook anyway. This is because some employers are not only searching for their future employees on Facebook, but they are making them release their Facebook passwords. This I see as totally unethical, yet I find no way to avoid it. In the Forbes article, “Facebook And The Job Interview: What Employers Should Be Doing,” Jeanne Meister argues that requesting a job applicant for their password is not only a violation of privacy, but it is also not beneficial to the company in the long run, and I could not agree more. In the article she argues 4 reasons against this practice. First, she believes that doing this will limit your number of applicants and your business could potentially lose out on someone who is perfect for the job you are trying to fill, simply because they see this as an invasion of privacy. She upholds her argument with a global survey conducted by Cisco in which 3,000 college students were polled 40% saying they would pass up on a higher paying job where the company asked them to release their password. Secondly, she believes it to be a terrible PR move. Thirdly, she contends that this practice is out of touch with the current generation, who basically already volunteers this information by friending their colleges and bosses on FB. Finally, she says it is “a losing battle,” simply because she found that people create fake profiles under their real names and uses other “fake” or nicknames for their real Facebook profiles. Meister comes to the same conclusion I have drawn in this “technological battle” between employer and employee in terms of privacy. Rather than companies in a sense monitoring current or potential employees’ Facebook profile, they should educate the employees on how to accurately and professionally portray themselves. Because regardless of how they go about it employers will inevitably look future and current employees up on the internet, it has become the employee’s responsibility to make sure they are representing themselves in the best possible way.

    • TAdams says:

      I completely agree with Meister’s description of the practice as “a losing battle” and that it will only lead to people becoming much more cautious to defend their perception of privacy or continue to put out whatever they want with no discretion whatsoever.
      It is ridiculous that some employers are forcing applicants or employees to relinquish their passwords. Facebook has a certain degree of privacy that people have come to rely on, and even when their online profiles are set to completely public they still have a system of personal messages that only they can see. I don’t believe that employees have a right to see these personal messages. I also share your conclusion that it is the employee or potential employee’s responsibility to portray themselves in the best light.

  24. Victoria Rutherford says:

    There have been a lot of responses about whether or not this is an invasion of privacy. On behalf of the applicant, I think you are living in a world where employers do look at online profiles and that means you need to exercise caution when using a the web. It is just the way it is.
    That however is not my focus. I would like to comment on the responsibility the employers have to verify the information they find about employees and applicants online.
    I recently read an article by William Smith called “You’ve been tagged! (Then again, maybe not): Employers and Facebook”. This article was published in Business Horizons in Volume 53, Issue 5 of September to October 2010. It gives a lot of solid background information about why social networking is so popular, and then finally progresses to the implications of companies using Facebook as a source of information. The article states that a company may very well jump to the wrong conclusions if there is “inaccurate” information on someone’s Facebook page. It explores Facebook’s terms and conditions and the purpose of the site, coming to the conclusion that it is not an accurate source of information. The article also examines the legality of using Facebook by employers coming to the conclusion that the topic is so debated it “opens employers” up to potential lawsuits. I do realize the article is a little outdated, but I personally rechecked the Terms and Conditions of Facebook and the majority of the articles points are still accurate.
    I believe that companies must be held accountable for the validity of information they are getting online. Facebook is self-reported social site that runs on people’s need for connection and approval of others. It makes sense then that to impress or establish a persona for their personal life people are going to post inaccurate information. It is now up to companies, if they deem using a Facebook as an acceptable source of information, to be responsible for being critical observers of the information posted. It is the same for students looking for research articles to back up points in a paper. People’s random blogs and sites with no author are not acceptable sources for this information. Students must find scholarly peer reviewed articles that have already withstood scrutiny through the publishing process. A company must be able to deem whether or not the information they pull from these sites is credible and not abuse their power. Using this information is both good and bad. A company must exercise caution and recognize when this information is potentially harmful to the company and its performance, and when it is just a person in a moment of poor judgment exercising catharsis. For example: illicit drug usage found on social networking sites is worth examining further, but not hiring someone who types poorly on their Facebook might be abusing the employers power.

    • bshaffer says:

      I would like to expand on the point Victoria gave about how using Facebook as a source can open up companies to numerous liabilities and potential lawsuits. If i company bases their decision off of the content of an applicant’s social networking profile they are left open to lawsuits speculating that applicants were rejected due to their political persuasion, sexual orientation, religion, etc. This effectively augments the question of whether or not looking at social networking profiles is ethical and makes the question if it is even practical. With the current legal climate, where law suits occur often and indiscriminately, companies cannot afford to be potentially liable for a discrimination law suit coming from every job candidate.

      Also, I find the idea that the information contained on social networking profiles is misleading to be interesting. I like how Victoria called for employers to be “critical observers” of the posted information, oftentimes that looks like an incriminating post could be merely an innocent post taken out of its proper context. Beyond this, if employers are looking to see if an applicant is for example, an alcoholic who drinks so much that it impacts their job performance, than how many posts does it take to make that distinction? How many pictures in a bar makes that person transition from a person with an active social life to someone who would not be sober enough to perform? Employers are ethically covered for not wanting to hire potential threats to their workforce, and have plenty of financial support for not wanting to hire people who will be incoherent more often than not. The bottom line is that employers are using a service that is designed to allow its users to present an image of themselves, not a service which was designed to give employers an accurate analysis of the applicant. So in the end is it ethical for employers to research applicants’ social networking profiles? Sure. Is it practical? I think not.

      • nrovetto says:

        Let me begin by saying that I completely and wholeheartedly agree with your second paragraph. It is has now become a rare occurrence to find some aspect of a Facebook profile that has not been adapted in some facet to make it, for a lack of better words, more likeable. Whether the vehicle is humor, sarcasm, pessimism, or any other emotion one may skew their life to be, it must be acknowledged that these are in fact, altered. However, that being said, I feel as though this is where I have a point of contention to your conclusion. While you argue that it should be the company’s, or for that matter any viewer in general, responsibility to make decisions accordingly, I feel that the majority of responsibility should remain with the individual. It is the individual’s choice to portray themselves in such a way, fully knowing that other people will see and subsequently interpret the information. As the process of interpretation is a completely individual process, one can not condemn someone for an interpretation. However, with that being said, I would like to reiterate that I agree with your assertion that people should be “critical observers” and take the information in as situational rather than being a representation of the applicants’ overall disposition.

        Just to briefly touch upon your first paragraph, despite Victoria’s source, I personally feel that these companies should not be open potential lawsuits regarding information about a questionable behavior. Forming a lawsuit over something as arbitrary as a photo of someone underage drinking acting as a deterrent for employment is in many ways, the individuals fault for reasons I mentioned above. However, that being said, if the applicant’s personal information such as their gender, sexual orientation, or race is being brought under question as a deterrent due to one of these background searches, then I do feel that the applicant would have some legal standing to pursue.

  25. bshaffer says:

    It is not only legal(as referenced in the June 24, 2011 ABC News Article written by Alan Farnham), but completely ethical for potential employers to integrate social networking profiles into their background checking process. A social network profile is a user controlled expression of their personality; everything that they post is a part of the public sphere and therefor subject to public scrutiny, whether that be by friends, family or future employers. It is universally understood that when evaluating a potential new employee companies wish to know who that applicant is in order to make the most informed decision possible, and to that end have utilized background searches in the past as well as asked for the applicant to provide character references. Social Networking profiles are essentially personal information that is volunteered on the behalf of the applicant for the consumption of the public.
    The problem arises however when an account and the material associated with that account are set to maintain the profile’s privacy. It is entirely unethical for a potential employer to snoop on material that has been intentionally established as private and only for the consumption of people within that profile’s network. This owner of that information did not submit it to the public sphere, and therefor it should not be scrutinized. Furthermore, it not only unethical, but illegal for potential employers to create fake profiles in order to fish for information on the applicant’s profile.
    Finally, if social networkers know that potential employers will be monitoring their online profiles it is completely within their ability to self-screen their material. According to a research article written by Robert Miller, Kristine Parsons, and David Lifer “Students and Social Networking Sites: The Posting Paradox” published in July of 2010 they found that “students continue to post information which they know is not appropriate for potential employers, all the while knowing that many employers are actively reviewing content on these sites.” With this in mind, how is it unethical for an employer to publicly notify the workforce of a policy when the workforce fails to adapt to the demands of the job market? Even if background checking on social networks is eventually ruled to be illegal the technological imperative implies that eventually a new and better method to achieve these ends can and in all likelihood will be used.

    • Calley Stouffer says:

      I concur with the fact that people need to be aware that their postings on social networking sites are public and visible to all. I do not, however, agree with the idea that it is ethical for employers to judge potential employees on their social characteristics instead of their professional characteristics. As I stated earlier, it is unethical to scrutinize the personal decisions of potential employees when they are unaware they are being judged. There are clear cut behaviors to follow in the workplace, however after the work day is through, and the employees assume they are no longer making professional decisions, they have a right to do what they want without ridicule from their superiors.
      I value the ethical perspective on privacy outlined above and agree that it is unethical to blatantly defy potential employees privacy settings. The notification of potential employees of social networking investigation should be established by the government as an inexcusable legal matter. Just as written consent is required in order for employers to conduct background checks on potential employees, legal documents should be drawn up each and every time a profile investigation is conducted online. At this point, all we can do, as potential employees ourselves, is monitor what we post on our social networking profiles and wait patiently for the law to catch up with technology.

  26. asolaguinto says:

    I strongly believe that businesses’ use of searching through the online content of potential employees is definitely ethical. My reason for this is because the process of employers searching through potential employees’ online information, like on Facebook, has become common knowledge in all businesses worlds. People should be more than aware of the fact that the information they post online is visible to anyone, including to the potential businesses that they may apply to. Being a college student who has begun the process of applying to jobs, I am very much familiar with the fact that I should go through my Facebook and make sure that what I have posted does not reflect poorly on my true character.

    However, I believe that companies that do perform background checks on those who apply to their business should make it clear on the application that they will be looking online through applicants’ Facebooks, blogs, etc. As Renee L. Waring and F. Robert Buchanan of the University of Central Oklahoma stated in their scholarly study entitled, “Social Networking Web Sites: The Legal and Ethical Aspects of Pre-Employment Screening and Employee Surveillance”, “employers should offer transparency both to potential applicants and to current employees about their screening processes and practices pertaining to their use of OSNs”. This transparency is, without a doubt, the element of companies’ background checking process that makes online profile searching ethical. Without this transparency, I feel that this would be unethical to those who are unaware of the fact that their potential employers check their profiles (no matter how few that number of people may be).

    • Katherine Reamy says:

      I completely agree with you on the fact that employers do have the right to search the online content of their employees prior to hiring. Facebook is a networking site where a vast number of photos and information is available to the world, so why not employers as well?
      Instead of blaming employers and companies for acting unethically by looking at social networking sites to gain important information about their candidates, it is important for candidates to edit the image they present to the world through social networking sites. Today there are so many privacy settings one can utilize that potential candidates should not be afraid of what is on their social networking site, and employers shouldn’t be afraid to look through them.
      Your idea that companies should clarify when they are conducting background checks through online profile sites is a good compromise between the two sides. Although, I don’t believe that employers must inform candidates prior to hiring them, it is a good way for candidates to be aware of exactly all that is being taken into consideration.
      Although I do believe that companies have the right to search potential employees online prior to hiring, I do not believe candidates should be forced into giving passwords and usernames. This is a violation of privacy because then the employers would be able to see absolutely everything that appears on candidates’ profiles, including their own personal messages. Instead it is much more ethical to simply search the web and use only what one finds there. As technology is expanding it is important like you said for candidates to understand that employers do look at social networking sites, and begin to edit this information to present the image one wishes to present to the world.

      • ecbrown says:

        I agree with both of these posts. I think that if someone is applying for a job, they should take into consideration how they present themselves in such a public portal. People don’t understand that anything that goes on the web can be found. I also agree that clarifying that you will be searched in an online setting on the application is a good idea. As Katie said, it’s a good compromise between the two sides. This way, the people applying are very clear about what will be taken into consideration when they apply, and if they don’t agree, they don’t have to apply.

        Again I agree with Katie in that potential employees should not be forced into giving passwords. While I don’t believe that it is an invasion of privacy to do an online search, I wholeheartedly believe that it is a violation to force someone to give passwords. All in all, I think that people need to wise-up to what they post online, and how this content presents itself to employers. There is nothing that is private online, and if you don’t want people to see it, don’t put it up.

  27. GReneris says:

    Employers have a right to know who they are hiring. Facebook is a social networking site first; a place to connect to your friends and various groups. It is an unrestricted view of who you are which is why there are privacy controls in place, and they are there for a reason. If a user feels they don’t need to be up to date on Facebook’s ever changing privacy rules and policies that is their business. If a company can find this information about you easily, that you go drinking every night, that there are pictures of you with drug paraphernalia, or anything else that an employer might find questionable that is your own fault. It is up to the individual to manage their online profile.
    However, some companies have clearly crossed the line on this issue by demanding Facebook passwords from their employees. As Joanna Stern mentions in her article Demanding Facebook Passwords May Break Law, Say Senators some companies ask for profile information on prospective employees. Such an act crosses the line and is “an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment” as Catherine Crump says in the article. Employers have the right to use any information they can dig up, but employees and prospective employees should have the right to plead the fifth with regards to their personal accounts. As of April tenth, Maryland passed a bill that “prohibits employees from having to provide access to their password-protected digital content or social media account information” Bradley Shear says, in the article Maryland Bill Bans Employers From Facebook Passwords, also written by Joanna Stern. The bill protects a user’s right to keep their private internet lives apart from their employers, but information that is in the public domain is still available for consideration by employers. This will hopefully make people aware that they have to hide their scandalous photos deep in Facebook’s private areas, and also allow businesses free reign to Google their employees and find out as much information they can without digging into their dirty little internet secrets.

  28. nrovetto says:

    While I do not condone any organization’s use of material obtained without the subject’s, who in this case would be the applicant, knowledge, I simply can not argue that it is not their right. As explained by Daniela Landert and Andreas Jucker in their article published in the April 2011 edition of the Journal of Pragmatics, there is a significant difference between online content that is submitted with the intentions of being public versus private. However, as they would explain, in our society, these two concepts have undergone subtle merges, thus rendering an absolute different in intention truly difficult to determine. Ultimately concluding that one’s intentions lie more within distinctly in the communicative dimension they have chosen. Of these dimensions, the two specifically addressed by Landert and Jucker are those of immediacy, resembling that of a public sphere, and distance, which accordingly represents the private sphere. Thus, when applying this concept to the world of Facebook, it should come of no surprise that given this criteria, it is viewed as being public.
    Personally, while the idea of my future employers potentially using my Facebook account negatively does worry me, their actions are justifiable. Given the public nature of Facebook, people should be more aware of their actions. However, too many people seem forget just that: Facebook is something that is permanently public, regardless of one’s individual settings. Thus, in my opinion, everyone does possess the inherent right to check another’s profile just as anyone can rent a book from their local library. Despite being intangible, one’s profile is in many ways an extension of their own public image. With that being said, I do not feel as though an employer’s code of ethics should be called into question, but rather that of the applicant. Facebook is a user-established system. No one actively uses their account against their own will. If used properly, it can be a truly great thing, allowing its users to connect with friends around the world, share memories, and start movements. However, that relies solely upon the individual.

  29. wzupan says:

    This is a very tough question to answer. On the one hand, its very difficult for me to say that it’s fair for a potential employer to reject a potential applicant just because of a few pictures. As unwise as it may be for a people to put up pictures of themselves like that on a social media site, a few “un-tasteworthy” pictures doesn’t say much at all, if anything, about a potential applicant’s work ethic or ability. Some of the most successful and hardworking people that I know are people who like to go out and have a good time.
    That being said, the internet is a public forum. Personal Facebook, Myspace, Twitter pages might seem like individual, private things but they are really all part of a larger public community. Once something is posted on the internet, it acquires a sort of permanence and, on top of that, it doesn’t take very much effort at all for some outside party to get ahold of that personal information, conversations, etc.
    This gets me to the interview/hiring process and professional world as a whole. The real world is all about reputations; individual ones as well as those of businesses. Companies hire people not just because they think they’ll be determined and successful workers, they hire them because they think they will help further the reputation of that company in as positive a way as possible. How might it reflect on a company if one of their employee’s photos of them partying, doing drugs, etc. got leaked and portrayed in a negative way. Employers have every right to know what potential risks they might be taking on when hiring an employee.
    Furthermore, much of the interviewing and hiring process is about doing one’s homework and finding out as much a possible about the potential employer/employee relationship about to be entered into. Candidates have every right to do background research on the company they are applying to. During interviews they are encouraged to inquire as to what they will be doing and what kinds of things to expect from their potential employer. In return, an employer has every right to inquire however they see fit into what kind of employee they might be bringing on to their company. They especially have a right to use publicly posted information about that candidate (which includes social media pages). I mean, wouldn’t you want to find out everything there is about your potential employer and bosses and what kind of people they are? Especially when you’re most likely going through hundreds of potential candidates.
    Remember, too, that employers can also check out social media sites to see if people are associated with others in the field they are applying for a job in. This is a point that Rob Mcgovern, founder of CareerBuilder.com makes in Andrea Siedsma’s article, “Are Background Checks on Web Posts too Much Information?”
    I guess in short, people need to be wary of the fact that this is very common practice. According to the same article, 7 out 10 hiring managers reject potential candidates based on information found on web posts and various social media. Though I would argue that they have every right to do so seeing as these sights are public domains, it doesn’t even matter because it’s the cold reality of the world we live in and it’s most likely not going to change any time soon. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Believe me, I’ve had this harsh reality dawn on me a time or two. I don’t know if people need to go back to disposable cameras and actual printed photos that can be stashed away and not posted online or what but they just need to remember that the things we put online have the potential to say any number of things to potential employers about us and we need to be careful because they can and will be checking.

  30. Ashley Landers says:

    In one of the previous posts, the point was brought up that companies needed to decide if Facebook is an accurate source for information. I really appreciated the comparison to students getting scholarly research, and I agree that employers should not look at a person’s Facebook and judge there ability to do the job based on possible misspellings in posts, or some questionable pictures. Although I do agree that Facebook in not exactly the best place to gain accurate personal, or professional information about a person, I do not think it is the company’s responsibility to decide if the information is accurate. What you post on the internet, especially what you post on Facebook is expected to be an accurate reflection of who you are. Thus, people have to be sure that they are portraying themselves correctly and responsibly. Facebook is a social networking site, and I do believe that employers should look at it as such, understanding that a person’s Facebook profile is a personal representation and not necessarily a professional one. In looking at a person’s Facebook, employers should judge the candidate in a more social way. For example, Facebook would be an acceptable way to see if a person would get along well with people in the office, or if they would be a positive addition to your company in terms of attitude. However, I do not believe that Facebook should be used as a way to decided if the person is capable of doing the job. I stand by the fact that it is the employee’s, responsibility to make sure they are being portrayed the way they wish their employer to see them. Also they should remember that even if they think something is “private” on Facebook, because it is on the Internet they should not assume privacy.

  31. Debbie-HC206 says:

    After reading what Courtney wrote it makes you wonder what is this world coming to, no privacy at all. But when look at some of these Facebook and Twitter postings you wonder what would make a person put something like this up so the whole world can see. You would think what you post on Facebook and Twitter is your own business, but now these employers are using all this against you. This is something that a person does in their spare time or outside of their jobs for recreation and to keep in touch family and friends. Some people do take it too far and that what makes it bad for other people who are job hunting.
    What potential employers should be looking at is how is your past work history was your resumes really nice and how well did you do at your interview. Now they have the drug and background checks also now it is do you smoke cigarette are overweight it like it’s never ending thing. I think if going to hire someone just uses good decisions measures.

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