Should it be illegal for employers to check job applicants’ Facebook profiles?
Earlier this month, InsideFacebook reported a study from CareerBuilder in which 45% of employers admitted to perusing applicants’ “social pages” during the hiring process. That includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and personal blogs, among other sites.
It’s not particularly surprising that half of all employers do online due diligence before hiring. It’s part of the process of judging would-be employees, like looking at resumes, running credit checks, and conducting interviews. What’s surprising is that the percentage has doubled since last year, when 22% of companies said they did this. It seems like Facebook-stalking prospective employers is becoming standard practice.
What’s even more surprising is that a whopping 35% of managers admitted to not offering jobs based on what they found on those social pages, reported the New York Times. Most of the time, employers are put off by photos involving nudity, drink, and drugs, writes privacy expert Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions. Jeez, managers, chillax. Drugs are one thing, but you’ve never been in an embarassing photo that involved drinking and getting naked?
In the case of credit checks, employers are legally required to let applicants know if they find something that discouraged them from hiring a person. In his book on The Future of Reputation, Solove suggests that the same practice should apply to Facebook checks.
“There are no guidelines for this now,” said Solove — a law professor at The George Washington University –during a recent interview. “A lot of employers are acting incredibly irresponsibly. Sometimes they’ll have a student working for them get around an applicant’s privacy settings to look at their Facebook page. Maybe that should be illegal.”
Candidates should have the chance to correct the record if there’s something inaccurate online. And we should respect each other’s privacy settings.
But not all legal types respect Facebook privacy. The Florida Bar Examiners, the group that decides who gets to become a lawyer in Florida, is considering forcing some wannabe lawyers to be subjected to a thorough social networking investigation prior to their being knighted esquires.
The Board of Bar Examiners did adopt the policy that investigation of social networking Web sites should be conducted for the following bar applicants:
• Applicants who are required to establish rehabilitation under Rule 3-13 “so as to ascertain whether they displayed any malice or ill feeling towards those who were compelled to bring about the proceeding leading to the need to establish rehabilitation;”
• Applicants with a history of substance abuse/dependence “so as to ascertain whether they discussed or posted photographs of any recent substance abuse;”
• Applicants with “significant candor concerns” including not telling the truth on employment applications or resumes;
• Applicants with a history of unlicensed practice of law (UPL) allegations;
• Applicants who have worked as a certified legal intern, reported self-employment in a legal field, or reported employment as an attorney pending admission “to ensure that these applicants are not holding themselves out as attorneys;”
• Applicants who have positively responded to Item 27 of the bar application disclosing “involvement in an organization advocating the overthrow of a government in the United States to find out if they are still involved in any related activities.”
I’m a bit creeped out, but also impressed, by how thorough my home state wants to be in vetting its lawyers. I’m also intensely curious as to what they expect to find on a Bar applicant’s Facebook page that reveals an intent to overthrow a government in the United States. I suppose it would be unwise for would-be lawyers to become Facebook fans of Anarchy.
But the question I pose in the title of this post is one we need to think about. Should it be illegal for employers to find ways around Facebook privacy settings to check out prospective employees’ pages? Should employers have to alert applicants if they found something online that convinced them not to hire a person?
Regular readers know I’m usually in support of the erosion of privacy. I think employers should do their best to fully investigate new employees, but transparency needs to go both ways. Employers should be required to let an applicant know if their Facebook allegiance to Anarchy is the reason they didn’t get the job.
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- Career Builder: 45% Of Companies Check Out Candidates On Facebook (insidefacebook.com)