Online Privacy for Employees

Think that prospective employers don’t hunt around online to do a little research on you? Think again. It is estimated that 90% of employers and recruiters use social media to aid in their candidate screening decisions according to Jobvite. A survey by CareerBuilder found that 43% of hiring managers stated that information found online caused them not to hire a candidate. This figure is up nine points from last year.

It is now commonplace for sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to be visited during the screening process. This can provide a true sense of who someone really is and the lifestyles that they lead. While this can be a valuable asset to a prospective employer, certain precautions must be made in order to ensure that illegal discriminatory information obtained by them is not reflected negatively in a hiring decision. A couple of examples of this data could be posts based around age, politics or disabilities.

Today, social media is a bonanza for confirming positive information that has already been provided by a candidate (i.e. résumé), or obtaining information that does not ‘reflect well’ on a potential hire (i.e. illegal drug use, inflammatory remarks based on race, gender or religion, etc.). However, the one thing that seems to bother most decision-makers is simple: poor grammar and misspellings. Many recruiters and hiring managers delete an alarming amount of résumés per year; just because someone didn’t take the extra few minutes to spell-check and proofread a very important document of their lives. It’s a poor reflection of an individual. This writer confirms that the sad state of poorly written résumés and cover letters is prevalent.

There has been a lot of press this year about companies who have required jobseekers to provide their passwords to their social media accounts. While not as intrusive as some may think, this opens up private dialog between friends and loved ones, etc. Both California and Maryland identified the risks of this information being used improperly and have passed laws banning the practice. 28 other states are weighing similar legislation.

The good news is that companies are using online searches to confirm good hiring decisions. Some examples of the information gleaned has been whether someone ‘conveyed a professional image’, to ‘well-rounded and showed a wide range of interests’ to having ‘great communication skills’.

We tell our youth that once something appears on the internet, it’s there forever. There’s always someone who can find it; maybe not now, but sometime in the future. With more complicated hacking programs and software out there, it will become increasingly difficult to keep everything in our online lives secure. The best bet is to be aware of your online identity. Google yourself often and do what you can to repair anything negative immediately.

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