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Could a New "Social Media Background Check" Cost You the Job?

Could a New "Social Media Background Check" Cost You the Job?

By Lauren Bayne Anderson

July 27, 2011

It’s the not so “new” thing. Potential employers (or current ones) looking at your Facebook page to glean information about your personal life—and make a decision on whether or not to hire (or fire) you!

Actually, companies have been doing it for a while now. Joe Bontke, outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) office in Houston, said 75 percent of recruiters are required to do online research of candidates and 70 percent have rejected candidates because of what they found, in a recent New York Times article.

But a few things have changed. And if you’re a job candidate, not necessarily for the better.

Some companies are now requiring potential employees to pass a “social media background check” before offering them a job. In fact, that’s all one company, Social Intelligence, does.

Social Intelligence will check a candidate’s Facebook page, Google, LinkedIn—in fact, they scour the Internet to dig up anything they can on job seekers within the past seven years—much like a financial credit check.

While the company’s report offers up accolades you’ve received and professional honors, etc., it will also show potential employers any questionable activity you’ve participated in online.

A recent New York Times article gave some examples of exactly what Social Intelligence has found that lead to job offers not being extended. “…one prospective employee was found using Craigslist to look for OxyContin. A woman posing naked in photos she put up on an image-sharing site didn’t get the job offer she was seeking at a hospital” the article said.

The New York Times article continued, “Other background reports have turned up examples of people making anti-Semitic comments and racist remarks…Then there was the job applicant who belonged to a Facebook group, “This Is America. I Shouldn’t Have to Press 1 for English.”

That last example, while not overtly racist, could raise concerns with potential employers that the candidate doesn’t like immigrants and may have some underlying racial issues. Even gray areas like this could potentially cost a job seeker the job.

Interestingly enough, the company told the New York Times that less than a third of the damaging information they find on candidates comes from social media platforms like Facebook. Instead, much comes from “deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even Craigslist”, the New York Times article reported.

People may not even realize that comment they made on a list serve are public and can be found in a search. The good news is, the company requires the candidate to consent to the background check before it’s started—which could give you a heads up on removing anything you don’t want potential employers to see from your Facebook, Twitter or MySpace pages. But things like Craigslist posts, and anything that shows up when someone searches for you on Google could be tougher to take care of.

And while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has declared the company is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and doesn’t violate privacy laws, the Social Intelligence goes one step further, claiming it actually HELPS potential employees by assuring the inquiring company doesn’t confuse the applicant with someone else they find online.

But while the FTC may not have a problem with what Social Intelligence is doing, the EEOC isn’t so sure. In the same New York Times article Bontke said that employers must be careful in what they find online. He said employers risks of violating federal antidiscrimination employment rules if they base hiring decisions on information found online that answers questions they are not legally allowed to ask in interviews.

“Things that you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you can’t research,” he said in the New York Times article, including information on a person’s age, gender, religion, disability, national origin and race.

However Social Intelligence says it doesn’t present any of that type of information to employers.

RELATED READING: How to Clean Up Your Online Image


Information compiled from The New York Times and CTI Career Search .


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    julaakas

    over 1 year ago

    22 comments

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    MYBATZ13

    almost 3 years ago

    34 comments

    good input

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    kmevans08

    almost 3 years ago

    2 comments

    @ rkenn3: English is the official language of America! It always has been. The reason why there is a choice for languages on the phone because there are still many immigrants in the country that don't understand English completely yet. That's why some employers might not want to hire someone in a facebook group like that because it shows that you might be insensitive to the needs of immigrants in this country.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    bhushansnv

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Facebook is a simple tool that helps connect businesses more meaningfully with the right audience at the right time. Facebook marketing is a highly effective way to drive traffic to your content and establish an online presence in the quickest amount of time. Fan Bullet can help attract thousands of followers that you can keep informed about any of your product or service offerings instantly. www.fanbullet.com

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    PDStaggs

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    I just found info on spokeo. I have no idea how it got there or how to get rid of it. They even have a picture of my house. That is not right as I never never allowed it & it's not a picture anyone in my family has taken. What am I able to do about this? Anybody suggestions

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rkenn3

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    While it's admirable to want good employees who also happen to be upstanding citizens, I think there's still one enormous flaw with this process: it's completely subjective. All hiring decisions are, but this is about as good as peeping into someone's windows and making hiring decisions based on the brand of boxers someone wears. Take the example of the guy who lost his potential job due to belonging to the "This is America, I shouldn't have to press 1 for English" group. There's a large amount of people who believe that the US should make English the national language. To assume that belonging to one of these groups means someone might have a problem with immigrants is asinine. Also, I'm sure everyone (whether they will admit it or not) has that friend who takes pictures of everything, and likes to throw outrageous parties. Those pictures (especially for those people who don't have a lot of photos of themselves online) more often than not end up representing these potential employees in an extremely bad light, even if it's just of them holding a beer in their hand and waving to the camera.

    There is a massive trend forming with these "social background checks", and for the average person, it's going to mean a hell of a lot of work just to appease potential employers. No drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no politics, no religion, no anything that indicates a strong or carefree opinion. If America's corporations want mindless zombies for workers, they only need to automate the entire system. I have strong beliefs, but I keep my work separate from my personal life. It's not my boss' business if I spend my Saturday consuming a few alcoholic beverages, smoking cigarettes and shooting pool. It is his business if I show up to work Monday looking like shredded sewage- and if that day ever comes, I EXPECT to be fired.

    It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't a fact that there are many companies with poor ethics. Most employees are aware of these (if they keep their eyes open), but thrashing the company you work for is as good as having a major violent felony on your record; you won't find work anywhere else.

    So I'll call the bluff: You leave my weekends alone, and I'll leave the BBB alone.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    homeless37

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    'Digital dirt' is the New Thing, and it's not just your social media they're looking at, employers/prospective employers now also hire private investigation and surveillance companies to REALLY go out there, and 'scope out' prospective employees. Why? They don't want dirtbags. They don't want people that are up to something, have criminal/gang affiliations, criminal records, or anything else like that. It's self-protection. They have a going business concern that just might be profitable for the most part of a year, and they're looking for people that'll add to that, not put their company on the front page for whatever reason, or cause them significant revenue losses from theft or for other reasons. People can misrepresent themselves in job interviews, they want to know who YOU are. So, who ARE you, and why are you applying with our company? Of course, there's nothing saying that the people on the other side of the desk, the interviewers, aren't criminals themselves, and what they're really screening for is honest people that might expose their 'shady stuff', or people more competent than they are and thus possibly their replacement, but that's where you, as an employee, or prospective employee, tend to be at a disadvantage, because you never really get to look behind the curtain...moral of the story, lay off the midget goat sex websites and the heroin, and maybe think twice about membership in the International Patty Hearst Society...

  • Superhero_logo

    Frank_Ball

    about 3 years ago

    19756 comments

    Please keep your comments on topic to the article -- Any comments posted with embedded links leading to questionable infected sites outside MonsterCollege will be removed and the poster's account will be banned from MonsterCollege. Thank you.

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