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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...

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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