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Be careful what you post on the Internet, because a possible job employer is snooping around

At least one in five hiring managers hit the internet and looks at social networking websites to help research possible job candidates.   

Online job site completed a survey of 3,169 hiring managers, with 22 percent of them saying they check on Facebook and MySpace when looking into job candidates.  Just two years ago, however, only 11 percent of employees looked at social networking sites before making a decision.

More than one-third (34 percent) of hiring managers dismissed possible candidates because of what they found on their profiles.  About nine percent who do not look on the web sites plan to beginning do so in the future.

  • 41 percent of candidates spoke of drinking and/or drug use
  • 40 percent posted provocative images or information
  • 29 percent had poor communication skills
  • 28 percent spoke badly about previous employers
  • 27 percent lied about their job qualifications
  • 22 percent posted offensive statements about race, gender, religion, etc.
  • 22 percent used an unprofessional screen name
  • 21 percent were linked to criminal behavior
  • 19 percent shared confidential information from previous employers

Job employers are becoming increasingly concerned about photos, video and written information of young people and their encounters with alcohol and recreational drugs.

But while what they find on the internet can disqualify candidates, looking on Facebook or MySpace also can help determine if a candidate is qualified for the job.

  • 48 percent of candidates had a background to help them acquire the job
  • 43 percent had good communication skills
  • 40 percent were a good fit for the company
  • 36 percent had a site portraying professionalism
  •  31 percent had references posted by others
  • 30 percent showed wide range of interests
  • 29 percent received either academic or professional awards
  • 24 percent of had creative or clever profiles

A general rule of thumb -- which obviously has been easily forgotten -- is that if you have anything you don't want publicly viewed, it should be published in "Friend's Only" mode on social networking sites.

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What does this tell us...
By Landiepete on 9/16/2008 6:50:32 AM , Rating: 5
The ineptitude of HR rats to judge a candidate has now apparently descended to new lows.

Imagine someone being refused for a job because of an 'unprofessional screen name.

The article says more about the state of the HR trade than of the quality of job applicants.

And then they complain they can't find people to fill the vacancies. What's next ? An unsuitable camera with which the picture was taken ?

Peter R., who think what people do in their spare time is their business.

RE: What does this tell us...
By gmyx on 9/16/2008 7:25:43 AM , Rating: 3
Indeed this is a new low. I don't know about the US, but I'm pretty sure in Canada this is illegal (no a valid reference). Think about this: how many people have the same name (I know of 5 in my area that have the same first and last name). Are you sure you have the right one? If I would be disqualified (not possible since I don't have a Facebook or MySpace page, but still), I would bring them to court. Private Life != Professional Life.

RE: What does this tell us...
By johnadams on 9/16/2008 11:21:20 AM , Rating: 3
And not to mention the statistics on identity theft.
Someone could register under your name and wreak havoc on your reputation! Suddenly JohnDoe find himself broke and out of a job because another JohnDoe who lives near by posted naked pictures of his body parts on a gay website of which the hiring manager was browsing on a fine Sunday afternoon.

RE: What does this tell us...
By chrnochime on 9/17/2008 2:58:57 AM , Rating: 2
A person is held responsible for whatever is said or done out in public, be it intentional or not. Facebook/myspace are wide open to public too, so they're not any different from other public places like restaurant/shops.
By your reasoning, references from your colleagues should not be valid either as there's no way to ascertain their validity, short of a lie detector test.

RE: What does this tell us...
By johnadams on 9/17/2008 8:21:10 AM , Rating: 2
Good point.

The issue though is that on the Internet, it is difficult to verify people's identity. Anyone could be impersonated easily because its just a matter of an online handle or text.

Unless the person makes a clear video of himself smoking pot and puts it on youtube... Sounds nonsensical but in this world we live in, sure why not.

References are usually accompanied with contact details and HR may do further investigation to verify the validity of the reference.

Having said all that, its really up to the guy doing the hiring. I know some companies don't even verify what the candidate state in the resume is completely true. They just take it as it is, do a short interview and you're hired! I had heard of bodyshop companies doing that. The pay is dirt naturally. Depends on the supply for the position I guess.

if Goldman Sachs is going to hire a new CEO to run its business, HR better damn well be sure that the person they're hiring to do the job doesn't have a blog somewhere with stuff like pirated mp3s and porn.

RE: What does this tell us...
By Master Kenobi on 9/16/2008 8:03:13 AM , Rating: 2
It's something we live with. I know my company checks these websites and as a result I have to be careful what I post on it, as well as what other people comment on. If anything even seems remotely out of line I remove it immediately. The reality is that the lines between work and life are blurring at a rapid pace, an companies are starting to force employees to make the decision to commit to your life or commit to your career, having both with some companies can be difficult at best.

RE: What does this tell us...
By FITCamaro on 9/16/2008 8:15:20 AM , Rating: 5
Doesn't really matter to me if they look at it. I don't use Myspace and I barely go on Facebook. Don't have anything on Facebook that would be deemed unprofessional or otherwise inappropriate.

Frankly if you're stupid enough to post photos or information about your recent drug party, about how you beat down some guy at a bar, or you in "intimate apparel", you deserve whatever happens. There's nothing wrong with having fun but an employer wants to know you'll be at work on Monday after the weekend. They want to know you're not out getting wasted every weekend or doing something illegal which will impact your performance at work or whether you're even at work period. As far as posting photos of oneself half naked, there's nothing wrong with taking said photos but they're better left kept in private.

Any hot women with said photos are free to send them to me though...

RE: What does this tell us...
By Polynikes on 9/16/2008 8:32:15 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree with you a little. Now drugs, those are a good indicator that soemone may later be a less-than-stellar employee, but if someone wants to go out and drink on the weekends that shouldn't be held against them. Not everyone who likes to have fun becomes an alcoholic.

That said, this is really a non-issue, post whatever you want, just make your myspace profile private and limit those who can view your profile on facebook to your friends. Voila!

RE: What does this tell us...
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 8:50:24 AM , Rating: 4
Couldn't the same be said for doing lighter drugs? Last I checked, alcohol is a drug, it just happens to be deemed "OK" by the religious, and it isn't like they didn't try to make it illegal before. An addiction is an addiction, and any addiction can take over ones day to day life. Drunk drivers kill people all the time, get in fights, beat their families, this is commonplace. When was the last time a pot head did anything other than sit on the couch for a few hours, and watch cartoons? Seen plenty of potheads that work their ass off, seen some that do nothing. Seen drinkers that are worthless pieces of crap, seen people who can handle it. Hard to make such a blanket call, but clearly you are trying to defend drinking, because you happen to do it, so suddenly it has to be defended. Just for reference, I neither drink, nor do any drugs. Not to say I never have, on the contrary, in high school, I did pretty much any drug and drank like crazy, and oddly enough, the drinking was harder to quit than the coke or meth or anything else.

RE: What does this tell us...
By Polynikes on 9/16/2008 9:22:35 AM , Rating: 2
I don't disgree with you about marijuana, however, it's still illegal and is enough reason for an employer to fire you. Booze is legal, and how much you drink is none of your employer's business, unless the drinking interferes with work. Same applies for weed, but if the employer finds out you use it, you're not gonna stand a chance.

RE: What does this tell us...
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/16/2008 10:02:49 AM , Rating: 3
Just my thought.
Now there are more and better ways to identify idiots and imprudents than there were before.
Besides, I don't see the attraction of this new wave of feeling compelled to share all of your privacy online.
I rather like my private life to be... private.

RE: What does this tell us...
By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 9:44:46 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, I'm with FITCamaro on this one. Different jobs have different responsibilities, and depending on what your job is any one of these things is a legitimate disqualifier.

Say you're applying for a position with MADD (mothers against drunk driving). Sorry, I don't think recreational drinking is something they want their representatives to do.

If, on the other hand, you're applying for a roughnecking job with hunt oil I doubt they give a crap if you drink recreationally. Heck, they'd probably be worried about you if you didn't.

Like it or not, employees are representatives of the companies they work for. How much of a representative is dependent on the type of job and the rank of the position. However, even someone like me just three years in at my current employer interacts with clients and gives presentations at industry events. If I were to show up a little toasted it would make my employer look bad.

The hardest thing for an HR department to do is to determine if a potential employee fits into the culture and ethics of the company to which they are applying. Looking at social (hint hint, it's public you idiot) networking (second hint, networking is about interacting with others!) sites is currently one of the best ways to make that determination.

Now, that being said, I think it is unethical to look without permission or knowledge of the employee. Our HR department currently does not look at social networking sites. When I have someone contact me looking for a job at my company, I do look at those things. So, before I look I always ask if I can look at their myspace or facebook pages. I also ask for any screen names they may go by in any industry related blogs or forums. I've had people claim they don't have any such memberships (some truthfully, some not), I've had people request I not look in those places, but most people are more than happy to provide the information because (shockingly! gasp) they have nothing to hide. That seems to work pretty well for me...

RE: What does this tell us...
By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 7:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
Ooh, re-read this and wanted to qualify that "you idiot" refers to anyone posting their recreational drug use on facebook and not to any of the previous posters... my bad for any confusion...

RE: What does this tell us...
By aos007 on 9/16/2008 12:30:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, that particular example (screen name) does a lot to highlight how ridiculous are these things getting. Next thing will be to deny employment to anyone found claiming to play, say Rock Band or Guitar Hero or going to any rock concerts. Those activities involve posturing and jumping, driving into frenzy and behaving like crazy, not to mention the terrible music choice which is linked to a lot of immoral behaviour such as drinking, drugs and sex. I listen to classical and jazz so if I were a hiring manager I'd be inclined to not hire anyone who seems like a crazy sort and listens to "music" of people who use yell, scream, "sing" off key, use excessive makeup and dress like transvestites. Rock music is "unprofessional" and should not be tolerated at "serious" "corporations".

How's that different from using someone's "unprofessional" screen name to disqualify them from a job?

I'm not talking about finding the candidates use illegal substances or lie about their background. It's obvious from the survey that these are just used as excuses to apply COMPLETELY ARBITRARY screening on the discretion of the hiring "manager". Just like the rest of the society is going down the drain because a legitimate concern is used to hide someone's real agenda.

RE: What does this tell us...
By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 7:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
If your "unprofessional screen name" is say, Calvn_Swing then yeah, that's pretty dumb. Especially if you're in the construction industry and the only place you use that SN is on a tech site.

If, on the other hand, your SN is "*ucktheowners" and you're posting on an industry related site like say the AGC's forums (and have your company information listed underneath it) then I'm sorry, you're asking for it.

You're assuming these companies did something brainless like the first situation and not realizing that in some cases there can be a legitimate reason for someone's PUBLIC online identity to misrepresent the employees company negatively.

Once again, it is public, and it is meant for networking. Take that into consideration before you post. If it is only for your friends, then restrict it to just your friends and make the point moot. Or, make a professional one too! In other words, think before you post... (hmmm, that's a good rule of thumb for other communication mediums too...)

RE: What does this tell us...
By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 7:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
Hehe, I can't even keep track of my own screen names. I'm ZmaxDP on this site. Now that is classic. Perhaps I should take my own advice about thinking before posting...

Is it legal to turn someone down?
By MScrip on 9/16/2008 5:43:36 PM , Rating: 2
What happened to Equal Opportunity Employment?

"discriminating against employees on the basis of race, sex, creed, religion, color, or national origin."

Every job application I've seen has EOE at the bottom.

So they can hire you if you're a black atheist... but they can fire you if you write on someone's wall using incomplete sentences (poor communication), or have an unprofessional screenname?

Has there ever been a case where someone wasn't hired because of a Facebook profile? And wouldn't there be a discrimination lawsuit?

RE: Is it legal to turn someone down?
By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 7:19:33 PM , Rating: 2
On what grounds? Discriminating against stupidity is perfectly legal, and (to date) has never made it to trial that I know of. The items you list are considered protected, I don't see "intelligence" in that list, do you?

RE: Is it legal to turn someone down?
By MScrip on 9/16/2008 11:25:18 PM , Rating: 2
> "Discriminating against stupidity is perfectly legal."

Really? Let's take Facebook out of the equation. What if someone in the HR department of the hiring company heard from someone who heard from someone that the potential employee blah blah blah. Is it OK not to hire someone then?

I agree that you shouldn't post information that you don't want publicly viewed... but any kind of discrimination shouldn't be allowed in the hiring process.

By typo101 on 9/19/2008 3:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
any kind of discrimination shouldn't be allowed in the hiring process

If you follow that statement to its logical conclusion, the hiring process is completely pointless and you might as well be handed whatever job you apply for. They have to discriminate on some criteria, just avoid the ones that have no correlation to the job they would be doing (i.e. sexual preference at a software development company).

That being said, I really don't strive to be "professional" in my personal life and my facebook profile will reflect that. That should not be used as a meter for my professionalism in a business context.

By Spivonious on 9/17/2008 9:25:29 AM , Rating: 2
My friend lost his student teaching job (and his chance to get his education degree) because of a post he made on his Xanga.

He had had a rough day and commented that sometimes he wanted to "kill those kids". It is a sad world we live in.

And people are complaining because???
By 325hhee on 9/16/2008 10:45:21 AM , Rating: 3
Why are there so many negative posts on people feeling employers have no rights to look at prospective candidates via Myspace, facebook, etc.

I know some people in HR that uses it, and it's a valuable tool. When you see someone posting, yeah we should kill so and so because of, what ever reason. Just going by that can tell you, that person isn't all there in the head. Or people bragging about, their excessive drug usage, or how to grow home made narcotics. That's a candidate that can prove to be destructive to the company.

Or better yet, people with gang pride, those are not people that would make other colleagues feel comfortable in a work place.

Any user that wants to throw things like that in the open, are in open territory, so if it backlashes against them, it's their own fault. Prospective employers really do not want to invest the time to rehire and train people over and over again, it costs time and money to do so. For my company, it costs about $2000 to train someone for two weeks. It may not sound like a lot, but the two weeks alone is time that can never be recovered. And that's two weeks of work lost for a business.

And now with this 500 point loss in the market, lots of jobs are being lost, people are going to be a lot more particular on who they hire. Employers wants the best they can get, and possibly at the least they can pay them, they don't want to hire screw ups, slackers and loafers. Employers can't afford to hire, train, over and over again.

RE: And people are complaining because???
By Landiepete on 9/16/2008 11:33:49 AM , Rating: 2
Let's say, for the sake of argument, you're at a wedding. It's a great party and you're having fun. You've had a few to many. At this point, on the of the guests of an overseas persuasion starts singing 'Nottingham Forest Almighty'. Since you are an avid Hibs fan, you give him the inverted victory sign shouting something along the lines of 'I say old bean, how jolly unsportsmanlike'.

At this point someone you don't know snaps a shot and plasters it on a social website with the caption '325hee shows what he thinks of Notty supporters'.

You do not know about this.

Twoo weeks later a potential employer scours the websites for info on your person. He deems you to be a drunk, a racist, a hoolingan and sporting an unprofessional name.

Looks like you're sh*gg*d, mate.

Peter R.

RE: And people are complaining because???
By 325hhee on 9/16/2008 12:03:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the person taking the snap shot would post it on his or her own site, unless for some reason, that person has my access info.

It's not like we're going to research other people, to find info on our prospective candidates. That's going too far. But if someone researches said person, and that person him/herself is displaying, publicly, they're an idiot, is one thing. The said person friend posting it, is a completely different story.

By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 7:14:43 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention, most (not all) HR employees are humans too, and screw up every once in a while. What they're looking for isn't one photo of their candidate being a dumbass, but a history or tendency of them doing something that either compromises their ability to perform their job, or could compromise the reputation of the company. Usually they're not dumb enough to let talented people pass by because they got drunk at a wedding reception and made a sign with their fingers that is captioned on someone else's page with something possibly derogatory. Perhaps your HR department is that inept, but thankfully ours isn't.

29 percent had poor communication skills
By Regs on 9/16/2008 1:09:44 PM , Rating: 3

By ZmaxDP on 9/16/2008 7:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
+1 from me too

This isn't rocket science or brain surgery
By Bateluer on 9/16/2008 8:57:10 AM , Rating: 2
If you're trying to get a decent, corporate type job, don't post on your Myspace or Facebook about snorting cocaine, don't trash your previous employer, don't make racist comments, etc. You wouldn't dream of doing any of these things during a job interview, and most would balk at doing most of them in public.

If you don't want people to see it, don't post it on the public internet.

By BadAcid on 9/16/2008 12:31:34 PM , Rating: 2
Things posted on the internet should also not be taken literally or as truth 100% of the time.
My facebook profile's current gimmick paints me as a perfect employee with no emotional / recreational mishaps or shenanigans. So what's the gimmick? I've articulated my entire profile to paint myself as a serial killer. It's subtle, but it's there.
Heaven forbid we're allowed to express creativity on something that in itself is recreational and unprofessional (read: doesn't mean jack squat to how we perform at work)

Neutral on this
By Jay2tall on 9/16/2008 9:32:22 AM , Rating: 2
I do not think it is a low for companies to do a little research on perspective employees at all. Companies are shopping for the best candidate for a position that will be reliable, trustworthy, and have character. Just like if you are researching what TV to purchase. If you read reviews somewhere that are bad or if the company itself has posted statements such as recalls or defective products. Do you want to buy from them? NO, so why is there anything wrong with a company who will toss your resume in the trash if they see you posting items on your personal page, that you have obviously consented to be public? If I am looking for a professional individual I am not going to hire someone who posts pictures of them self drunk at a party with girls, or guys, hanging all over him or her. Or someone what posts HATE images or talks bad about a former employer.

I think the HR departments that do this sort of search are looking for more of a professional candidate. A blue collar factory worker is not going to get this sort of filtering. I would assume this is more of a white collar professional position that requires a certain image be present.

Now on the flip side of things, and even though this article only states this is for position candidates, I do not believe this sort of criteria can be used to fire someone. With the exception of posting company or trade secrets, or bad mouthing the company. I think this is a valid filtering method for resumes and candidates, however should not be grounds for dismissing a current employee that is already hired. UNLESS they have posted items that are grounds for termination. Such as company or trade secrets, or bad mouthing the company. All of which would be equivalent to stating verbally with someone else. This information is public and can be used against you. A current employee should not be allowed to be terminated if they find drunken pictures of you or even if you have satanic hate images on your page. As long as they are not linked with your place of employment, you are free and clear.

RE: Neutral on this
By rtrski on 9/16/2008 9:47:33 AM , Rating: 2
Kind of depends. Some jobs require clearances of a certain type (security, financial, or otherwise) which come with a responsibility to not just "get" cleared, but to stay free of any sort of "compromisable circumstances". Anything that could be indicative of a lack of control, financial or emotional distress that could be leveraged, or otherwise give some outside party a handle with which to manipulate you, could indeed be grounds for revocation of said clearances, after which if the job required it, sayonara.

Granted the bloke who blogs about his extramarital affairs is probably not blackmailable after posting about it publicly("we'll tell your wife!"..."go ahead, see those nasty responses on the blog? those are from her!"), but it still may constitute "adverse information" and it is indeed the responsibility of the vetting agency to at least re-interview the individual when such comes to light, and make a determination of the risk they present at that point.

I understand why
By Maethor on 9/16/2008 9:39:19 AM , Rating: 2
I understand why they do it honestly. You kinda have to put yourself in their shoes these guys doing the hiring often have 10-20 applications or more for a job position and maybe only 1 or two positions. Honestly when you have so many people with nearly equal qualifications and you only see them in a quick interview it does not really give a person much to base a hiring decision off of. Looking at a facebook and the like can tell them if a person lied on their application and just the general type a person they are much more than a 5 minute interview which the person has probably rehearsed for.

Honestly, anyone who has an unprofessional looking facebook or myspace and is applying for a professional job should make it private because companies understand that their employees reflect on them.

RE: I understand why
By BadAcid on 9/16/2008 12:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
It's a shortcut and gives inaccurate representation to how an employee will perform both in the job and in his/her free time given that he/she now has a job. If anything, the HR people using this as a means to judge hiring need to be fired for using poor strategy and being lazy. They're supposed to be working, too. They represent the company, too.

Privacy options?
By probedb on 9/16/2008 10:04:17 AM , Rating: 2
Surely they can only see this sort of information about people who have their profiles open to all?

My profile/photos etc. are only visible to friends so how do employers see these things?

RE: Privacy options?
By Johnmcl7 on 9/16/2008 6:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
I was wondering that as well, Facebook comes up a few times here however surely unless you accept some stranger you don't know as a friend on your account they can't see your information?


as a
By senbassador on 9/16/2008 11:35:41 PM , Rating: 2
As a moderate libertarian, if companies are dumb enough to actually do this, pass up qualified candidates over something retarded like a picture of being drunk on facebook for a slightly less qualified candidate who didn't do that, they have every right to run their own business to the ground. Just be kind enough to let me know, so that I can dump all your stock. In 10, 15 years down the line, companies that DON'T do this will be ahead of the ones that do (just my prediction).

The next time you look at my facebook profile, when your company kicked the bucket begging the feds to bail them out, while half their employees waiting in the bread / unemployement line, you may see me drunk celebrating your woes on the news.

As a realist, in real life, I will clean up my facebook / myspace so not to get passed over by said dumb companies, if only to use them as a stepping stone. Also, as a realist I am smart enough not to put my real name on this comment.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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