I have discussed this topic briefly a time or two on this blog and it appears the topic has resurfaced again by the look of some of the comments and emails I’m receiving. It seems that with companies looking to cut costs with the downturn in the economy, they are replacing the background process with google and online social networking searches like MySpace.
First and foremost, let it be known that my opinion is that a google or myspace search should not and does not replace a proper background check. Background checks search for prior felonies and misdemeanors on the candidate’s record. Online searches on social networking pages only provide the candidate’s page content and not their past criminal history. Personally, I think that this practice is a waste of time. Understand, however, that many companies use this practice as part of the background check process.
I attended a legal seminar over three years ago where one of the topics discussed was how to use social networking search as part of the background check process and what companies and candidates legal rights are. Understand that anything that is posted on the Internet falls under “Public Domain” which means basically that anyone can view the information posted on the Internet for any purpose without your permission. Basically, you can’t get your panties in a bunch because a company viewed your page content and comments. Anyone has the right to do this once you post your dirty laundry on the world wide web. So what can you do?
- Mark your page as private. This keeps people from viewing your page content but it does not keep me from searching your page content on the Internet. I can use a site like wink.com to enter in your name and keyword search. Although I can’t see your page with the keywords on it, I can see that your page contained the keyword I search. For example say, I searched John Smith and devil worshipper and something popped up on your facebook page. Although I can’t see the content or if you or a friend posted this information, I know now that it is contained on your page. From an employer’s perspective this could be a cause for concern.
- Clean up your page. This is what I highly recommend. Since we have established the companies can and do view your page for whatever reason at any time, it makes since to clean up your page. Monitor your friend’s comments and pictures they post in addition to cleaning up your own information. Although companies, should not discriminate based on certain information contained within your page, the reality is that they can and do. Change your age to a ridiculous number like 299, remove your salary information, and do not post racy photos or other potentially eyebrow raising content like references to drugs, alcohol, or criminal activities.
- Keep your blog in mind. If you are going to have a blog, I recommend keeping your blog titles PG and block only friends on your page to view your blog.
- Be weary of your friend’s pages. If someone is listed as a friend on your page, they are also fair game and can influence a company’s perception of you. Consider removing a top friends list on your page so that people can’t click from one friend to another especially if a company is looking to gain more information.
By using these tips, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job without unintentionally disqualifying yourself for the position.