According to The Telegraph, employers in the US have begun turning to social media to do background checks on job applicants. When employers can’t find certain information (due to privacy settings), they have resorted to demanding Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn passwords. According to a recent Careerbuilder.com survey, one in five American employers now screen candidates via social media (out of 31 000 respondents). Although this is still mostly limited to the US, this practice is set to spread, as it offers a quick and easy way for employers to get the dirt on future employees. This has raised issues about job applicants’ privacy versus the employer’s right to do a background check.
Must you share your password?
Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, made a recent statement saying that soliciting or coercing a user’s password goes against the social network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. According to The Telegraph, prospective employees have every right to say no, as it’s a request for personal information and it doesn’t reflect the candidate’s capacity to do the job. In other words, you aren’t under any legal obligations to share your password.
Could your Facebook profile actually help you?
Some employers would argue that a Facebook profile does predict the ability to do a job. According to Forbes Magazine, a recent study by the University of Northern Illinois asked HR professionals to rate hundreds of college students’ Facebook profiles based on how employable they seemed. All publically available information was scrutinised, from photos to status updates, and each was given a score. This score was based on emotional stability, extroversion and agreeableness. Six months later the current employers of the ex-college students were asked to submit reviews about their employees. The study found that the college students who scored highly on their profiles were also reviewed favourably by their employers. Furthermore, the study also found that lots of Facebook friends and crazy photos indicated an extroverted personality – something that potential employers often like.
When does a profile hinder you?
For some potential employers, a quick Facebook check is more appealing than phoning references, as it’s a warts and all approach. According to Forbes, red flags would be drug or alcohol references, badmouthing past employers and lying about qualifications. Moody and overly emotional status updates also put employers off.
What should you do?
For the time being, the chances that your potential boss will want your password are slim, so it’s wise to simply keep private information private. The solution lies in being very careful with what you post online. Inc.com suggests that you assign high privacy settings for all your social networking profiles. Ideally, you should have two profiles: one for professional contacts and one for personal. Inc.com also suggests that before you apply for any jobs, you should gain the upper hand by Googling yourself and having a good look at all of your social networking information. At the end of the day, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. And if you do what to hide it, make sure it’s well hidden!