Monday, August 6, 2007

Looking for a job? Employers Employ Virtual Background Checks

If you are looking for a job, beware the virtual background check employers are increasingly and more commonly apt to carry out. In a virtual world, with social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, people have let their guard down and have become more open to what type of information they reveal about themselves; namely, their partying habits such as binge drinking, and drugs. Sexually provocative photographs have also become a norm. A number of people seem to have associated this type of behavior with what they think is a positive effect on their social networking profile. But, as it may affect their social standing for like-minded people in a positive way, it may lead to a negative view. People forget that when they make their online profiles available to the public; anyone, including an employer, has access to what is likely meant to be exclusive for viewers of the social networks. Even private profiles, commonly meant for the eyes of only family and friends, have found their way into the hands of people who were not supposed to view them, as in the recent case of Miss New Jersey’s Facebook profile [1].

35% of the employers eliminated candidates based on what they found online. --
Employers are increasingly using online methods of reviewing possible employees. If they are not already using social networking sites to screen, many have stated that they will begin checking these websites to do so. According to the Arizona Republic [2], “a survey conducted in June 2006 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that nearly 27 percent of employers are checking Google and social networking sites to review job candidates. Of the companies that did not conduct online checks, about 35 percent said they might do so in the future.” In another study, conducted by, 77% of employers responding to their 2006 survey actively use search engines to research job candidates. 35% of the employers eliminated candidates based on what they found online [3].

Not only provocative photos, binge drinking, and mention of drug use may get you booted out of the pool of potential employee candidates, everyday personal information is not always best for employer eyes. While it may generate interest in the social networking community, general profiles that tend to show information such as sexual preferences, political preferences, marital status, religious views and educational background among other things, are an invitation for employers to discriminate. Yes, in some aspects it is illegal to discriminate, but how can a job candidate prove that discrimination is the reason that they did not get an interview?

Do not get the impression that if you have a job now, you can post whatever you like. There have been people who have been fired for keeping blogs of company-related information even if it is just to rant and rave about their bosses [4]. Employees who talk about their company negatively, in public, generally do not have a strong defense. “In most states, employees who don't have a contract are considered "at-will," which means they can quit at any time and for any reason. Conversely, employers have the right to fire them at any time and for any reason, except for well-known exceptions like race, age or gender,” says

In addition, what one posts now while they have a job, can haunt them later even if they delete the content while looking for a new job. Sites such as Google and cache the content of various web pages and social networking sites. In other words, they keep an archive of what has appeared online. So, if an employer uses a site that has archived information that you do not want people to see, they can potentially pull up that very content. So, something you may have posted in the past, but then deleted, may be archived for viewing on these type of sites.

As employers are increasingly using online searching techniques to screen job candidates, it is a good idea to keep social networking profiles as clean and general as possible. Do not display types of photos, or information you may not want certain people to see, even with a “private” indicator on the profile. If you can be embarrassed by the things you have posted, or if you think that it may affect the possibility of you getting a job in the future, then don’t post it. If you think that what you post now, can be deleted later when looking for a job, what you post may be archived. So, beware the prying eyes of the employer and do not place text or images on a profile that could haunt you in the future.

[1] MSNBC – Miss New Jersey Releases Black Mail Photos – July 12, 2007 -

[2] Arizona Republic – Don’t Get Fired Before You’re Hired – July 28, 2007 -

[3] Mainebiz – Hiring 2.0 -

[4] CNNMoney – Have a Blog, Lose Your Job? -

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