Using Facebook for Background Checks

Today, more employers use social networking sites in researching job candidates. According to Meinert’s (2011) report on HR Magazine, 45% employers being surveyed in June 2009 use social networking sites to find job candidates, as compared to 22% in 2008. In addition, 11% will start using social networking sites for employee screening. Another survey conducted in 2010 also indicates that 70% of recruiters had turned down candidates based on the information they found online.

Facebook, as one of the most important social media sites, has received more employers’ attention lately when they need to do background checks. This Fox News video reports that more companies are using Facebook for employee screening. Some companies even ask applicants for their usernames and passwords on Facebook. Do employers have the right to do that?

I never set my social networking profiles private. Everyone can check out my profiles as s/he wishes because there is nothing I want to hide --- I do not put my birthday or residential address on the Internet however. Meanwhile, I do not understand why some people, especially job seekers, want to keep an online profile private. When an employer finds a private profile, the employer may wonder: What did this person do? Is s/he trying to “hide” something? My question is: if s/he really wants to stay “private,” why did s/he want to set up an online profile in the first place? In responding to this news video, will it be an alternative if an employer asks a job candidate to change the “private” setting into a “public” setting for just a short period of time? As soon as the employer finishes reading the profile, the candidate can go back to “hide” again.

Meinert (2011) suggests that HR professionals need to be very careful when checking out job candidates on the Internet. Because many social networking sites store users’ detailed demographic information, checking a candidate’s profile online may result in discrimination claims and privacy claims. In particular, the same guidelines used for traditional reference checks should be applied to employee screening on the Internet and social networking sites. What guidelines does your company use for screening candidates on the Internet? What are your suggestions?



References:
Meinert, D. (2011, February). Seeing behind the mask. HR Magazine,p. 31-37.

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