Social networking influence on hiring process is unfair

By By Tina Parsons

By Tina Parsons

The explosion of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Plaxo has created an expansion of personal information being uploaded to the Internet. What some users might not know is that potential employers are using these sites before making hiring decisions. This is certainly encroaching on privacy and should not be done. Still, it is happening.

According to the respective sites, Facebook has 300 million active monthly users, and MySpace boasts 125 million active monthly users. This data is not just being shared with friends and family. Taking advantage of the opportunity to assess potential employees beyond the formalities of a resume, a growing number of employers are searching the Internet for information about applicants before making hiring decisions.

The Department of Workforce Services does not have statistics on how this situation impacts Utah job seekers.

“We just don’t have the data available to us to know for sure what the potential is in Utah,” said Curt Stewart, administrator with DWFS. However, he said there was a case where a Harvard graduate was denied employment because of a video that was posted on Facebook and made its way to his potential employer. Another young woman was denied employment because of photos posted showing her drinking with friends at a sorority party. This is not acceptable or fair and does not determine the quality of a potential employee.

U.S. News & World Report recently reported that 40 percent of employers said they would take into account an applicant’s Facebook page during the hiring process. Although many states have not addressed this issue in their legislatures, it is likely they would determine that a person who posts information on a private site on an unrestricted web platform does not have a reasonable expectation to privacy. That means users must take responsibility for what they post.

Three Utah teachers have recently been in the news for content on their pages. The Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission reviewed the pictures of one teacher drinking during the weekend and determined that underage people were present in the photos. The teacher did receive a DUI that night, but there are many possible circumstances that a picture can’t account for, such as whether the teacher was actually drinking in the presence of or with underage individuals. What is on your page should be private. Employers, probation officers, college admissions boards and the like should not use this information to base their decisions on.

Because no legislation is pending, and trying to prove your Facebook page was the reason you were denied employment would be next to impossible, users need to protect themselves.

“Be diligent, keep your site G-rated, don’t post things you don’t want the world to see,” said Terre Smith, human resources supervisor at DirecTV. “Nothing is truly private, and you would be amazed at the information that we can find just doing a Google search.”

Anyone who uses these sites needs to check their privacy settings, be cautious of who they approve as friends, keep their site mature and watch what is said. The information age is here to stay and will only present better opportunities as well as pitfalls along the way. Don’t become a casualty of questionable hiring practices.

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