After I wrote an article about the outcry following Facebook’s addition of “Mini Feed” and “News Feed,” the Editor-in-Chief of The Wood Word asked me to write a follow-up article about how employers are now using Facebook to do background checks on job applicants. Since I published the original article on here, I feel obligated to post this one as well. Keep in mind that since this was written in 2006, some of the statistics may no longer be accurate.
This is very timely, given the controversy over Facebook’s privacy settings, and the company’s giving of user information to other websites. I have found this helpful in some circumstances. For example, it makes it easier for me to share Huffington Post articles. However, I once went on CNN.com and over in the right-hand column was a picture of my friend and a list of articles he’d posted on Facebook. Enough people are irritated that a mass quitting of Facebook has been scheduled for May 31. In addition, I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve seen shared on Twitter about X-number of ways to protect your Facebook account, to increase your privacy, etc.
What makes this even more important at this time is the poor job market. Many employers do Internet background checks on job applicants. It basically is a dog-eat-dog situation, so keg-stand pictures are risky now more than ever.
Last month’s issue of Wood Word communicated the recent controversy surrounding Facebook’s new features. One topic the article didn’t cover, however, was how a user’s Facebook profile can hurt his or her chances of attaining their dream job.
If an applicant has controversial or inappropriate things in his or her Facebook profile, it may ruin their chances of being hired for a job, even if they had already made it through the interviewing process. “We know of several examples of large corporations who hired students during the summer, interns for example, from a college, and their job all summer is to go through Facebook and look at the sites of students they offered jobs to” says Dr. Raymond Heath, Marywood’s Vice President for Student Life.
Is this a good thing?
“I think in the employment world, there’s a separate set of criteria that are used in evaluating the potential contribution of the employee,” says Dr. Heath. “So for prospective employers, investing a substantial amount of money in the training of these persons and so on, strikes me as a good human resources practice.”
While it may help the employers evaluate the applicant’s character, it may not be too helpful for the student. “We’re aware of at least one (case) that was really sad, where students were going out student teaching and parents of students they were working with went on and saw things that they felt were very objectionable for a person to be in a classroom” says Dr. Heath. “Upon reporting that to the school district, the superintendent insisted that the students no longer student teach there.”
Does this mean students seeking jobs shouldn’t use Facebook? “In the practical world, I think a student who is an applicant for positions has no reason not to participate in Facebook, it’s what is involved in Facebook,” Dr. Heath weighs in. “The stories I’ve read are particularly very compromising pictures for poor judgment.”
Is this an invasion of privacy or the results of poor judgment on the student’s behalf? On Stanford University’s The Stanford Daily website, several students raise concerns they have for this practice. One student believes that this practice puts an unnecessary responsibility on students to watch their language while another feels it’s an invasion of privacy and that employers have no right to be on a student-oriented website. One student even de-tags herself from pictures posted by others.
So what is reasonable to expect of students monitoring their sites?
“I believe they should effectively monitor the content of their sites, become more aware of privacy policies of such sites, and place only information on the Internet that they would be comfortable sharing with a potential employer” says Dr. Carol Gustitus, Director of Marywood’s Career Services.
So why do employers check Facebook? Dr. Gustitus says that according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, it is a quick, convenient way to do a background check on the candidates because it is getting harder and harder to find sufficient references for candidates. The NACE also reports that 11.5% of the 64 companies participating in the Purdue job fairs use Facebook as a background check.
Some universities check their students’ Facebook sites during investigations or when questionable pages have been reported. Don’t worry, Marywood students, University administrators do not make routine checks of students’ Facebook profiles. ”We do not intentionally, or consciously, in any repeated way unless we were in the investgation of a serious incident” says Dr. Heath.
“I’d hate to see someone who’s labored for X-number of years to get into medical school, or someone who’s trying to get certified to be a school teacher and the university’s often the one who has to testify to the person’s moral qualification,” he adds. “I just wouldn’t want to see something on Facebook handicap them.”