More employers than ever are researching job candidates on sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter in order to find out more about their activities and character. And, it turns out, many candidates are doing a great job of showing their potential bosses poor communication skills, inappropriate pictures, and even how many workplace secrets they can leak. By Jacqui Cheng at arsTechnica.
Some of us had the luck of doing stupid things online before most employers knew what social networking was. (I'll admit it: in my early working days, I said some not-nice things online about some of the people I worked with.) These days, however, those looking for jobs have had many years to build up an unsavory history across the Internet, and employers now know how to do their homework. In fact, nearly half of the employers in the US now search for job candidates on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, according to survey results from CareerBuilder. The job-finding firm said that the numbers reflect a twofold increase over those who reported doing so in last year—45 percent in 2009 versus 22 percent in 2008—and cautioned that many employers choose not to hire based on information they find online.
Facebook was the most popular site for researching job candidates this year — no surprise there, since Facebook has exploded in popularity as of late. "Professional" networking site LinkedIn came in second at 26 percent, MySpace came in third at 21 percent, 11 percent read blogs, and seven percent followed candidates' updates on Twitter. Paranoid yet about any of your recent tweets?
If you're looking for a job, you probably should be. More than a third of survey respondents said that they found info that caused them not to hire the person applying for the job, including "provocative or inappropriate photographs," content related to drinking or using drugs, and finding postings that badmouthed previous employers, coworkers, or clients. Other candidates showed poor communication skills on their social networking profiles, made discriminatory comments, lied about their qualifications, or shared confidential information from a previous employer. The one that made us cringe? "16 percent dismissed a candidate for using text language such as GR8 (great) in an e-mail or job application."
On the other hand, some candidates are doing a good job of presenting their professional side when posting online. Half of those who screened candidates via their social networking profiles said that they got a good feel for the person's personality and fit within the organization. Other employers said that they found the profiles supported the candidates' professional qualifications or that they discovered how creative the candidate was. Solid communication skills, evidence of well-roundedness, and other people's good references (we assume this one came from LinkedIn) helped boost people's credentials, too.
For most of us, it seems like common sense not to talk trash on your Facebook wall or post drunk pictures where potential employers can see them, but people are still catching up to the idea that their future bosses are on the same sites as they are. Anecdotally, I have worked at many an office that has casually looked up interns and new employees online, only to find sides of them that were less than flattering (one intern publicly declared that our company's parent company could "f-ing suck it!" immediately after we offered her the job).
Some may argue that employers shouldn't use information they found through a little bit of online stalking (something we've heard in our forums)—after all, what someone does after hours is his or her own business. At the same time, it's hard to deny that discovering truly alarming information—such as leaked workplace secrets—would be good cause for choosing another candidate. These days, everyone hunting for a job needs to exercise some judgment on what to post online and who they let access it if they want to stay in future employers' good graces.