Secrets of the Job Hunt


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Unofficial Background Checks

Thanks to the popularity of social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook unofficial background checks are on the rise. Since finding out what kind of person an applicant is can now be as easy as typing in their name as a search requirement, many employers are finding it hard to resist trying their hand at cyber-snooping.

The problem doing this is the fact that laws are still very murky. Since few cases have yet to be trailed involving social network sites and the workplace, few hiring managers really know what is and is not allowed.

Several schools of thought exist in regards to this subject. Some believe that an individuals page is their personal space to vent and express themselves and should not be investigated at all by employers. Others feel that if information is so personal and private then it should not have been posted on the Internet, therefore making it fair game. Most fall into the third category, believing that only certain information obtained through an unofficial background check should be used to make a hiring decision.

In order to avoid having the company they work for become involved in one of the sure to be many landmark cases regarding social networking sites and background checks, employers should consider setting up some sort of guide lines. One easy way to avoid all problems is for employers to request that applicants sign a consent form stating that they are aware that the information found on the Internet may effect their chances of getting the job.

Although this may cause many applicants to make their profiles private and therefore keep employers from getting to access any real dirt, it could potentially save the company a lot of money on legal fees. At the very least, applicants with private profiles are not broadcasting negative information to the world without a filter. This means that if such an individual was to be hired and took the time to post an unfavorable blog or note about the company, then it would only visible to a select group of their friends instead of the general public. If nothing else, this can help to avoid a public relations nightmare.

If applicants do decide to leave their profiles public, then usual hiring criteria should be used. Employers should follow all laws in act to protect against discrimination. Although many individuals post information such as their age, sexual orientation and religion, deciding not to hire an individual based on such statements could result in a law suit and should therefore be avoided. Employers who do not believe they could view such information without allowing their personal prejudices surface are better off leaving background checks to the professionals.

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