It is estimated that over 80% of employers conduct background checks on potential candidates that they are looking to hire, and some of these background checks now include social media checks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Almost everyone is on Facebook these days, and while it's great for your personal life and for keeping in contact with friends and acquaintances, I am finding that it is becoming more and more detrimental to candidates' job searches.

Companies conduct background checks in order to try to paint an accurate picture of who you really are and to avoid negligent hiring. They want to hire people they can trust to represent the company, and what better way to find out about "the real you" than through social media sites.

Facebook is an interesting (and free) way for employers to check up on you. Not only can they see your basic information, but they can also see your photos and what you discuss with other people on your wall. They can see what networks you belong to and even where you work. For the most part, companies don't care about how you spend your free time - as long as it's legal. What they are looking for are racist remarks (not only by you, but also by people who post on your page), sexually explicit photos or videos, and flagrant displays of illegal activity. Any signs of these will raise red flags to anyone performing your background check, and this can hinder your chances at securing your job.

You don't need to panic and start deleting all of your photos and wall posts right away... especially if you don't think you have anything to worry about. To start with, what you can do is check - and frequently recheck - your privacy settings on these sites. You might think that your privacy settings are all turned on, but the truth is that many social media sites update and reset these settings on a regular basis, and you might not even know that yours have accidentally been switched off.

The most important thing you can do is be more aware of what you have on your social media sites and go from there. Go through your photos (yes, even from those college days) as you never know what you might find. Are there "questionable" photos of you? Are there inappropriate remarks somewhere on your page that might be taken the wrong way? If you have to think about it, un-tag yourself or delete's not worth the risk.

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Comment by Linda Ferrante on June 7, 2012 at 1:38pm

I'm probably in the minority here, but I am a recruiter who does NOT look at a candidates facebook page.  Why?  Because FB is for play and things can be taken out of context WAY too quickly.  You even mentioned in your post that potential employers can see what 'networks you belong to' and could potentially make a hiring decision based on that.  Way too presumptuous for me to claim to know why you've joined a particular network and your involvement.  Also, if you inadvertently discriminate a candidate based on what you see on their FB page (just because they support gay marriage doesn't mean they are gay, but what if you assume so and discriminate against them because of it?), then you are doing a huge disservice to your clients.  Choosing the best candidate for the position is something we help our clients do.  I would much prefer to rely on my talents as a recruiter than someones facebook page.  Anything questionable will come out during our interview process, not by scouring someones FB page.  It seems so sneaky and invasive and a lame way for a 'recruiter' to do their job.  

I've heard arguments, very adamantly both ways, on this premise.  I may stand alone on this issue, but I'd rather let our recruiting process do the work it's designed to do.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on June 7, 2012 at 2:33pm
I tend to agree Linda. I have little time to go on Facebook myself never mind doing background checks on my candidates. Where does one find the time when running a busy desk?
Comment by Sandra McCartt on June 7, 2012 at 3:20pm

I check a candidate's facebook page when i have them scheduled for an interview to see what is out there.  Too many companies run a google search on a candidate after they have them scheduled so i want to know if we have something that needs to be marked private.

With licensed professionals i learned the hard way to verify the license before i submit them and or run a search.  When you get a surgeon or an obgyn who is interested in an administrative position or a medical sales spot, best run one.  My surgeon had so many mal practice suits filed that he gave up his license and the ob had been convicted of some pretty interesting conduct. 

It's not a routine that i do on every candidate but i want to know what is out there that somebody else might see if they do look.  As a matter of course i ask candidates to make sure their facebook profile is private when they are looking.  Who knows.  We dont' go into interviews and start talking about our sexual preferences, religon or politics or a lot of other personal things that folks seem determined to flop out there for the world to see.  Why i don't know but for purposes of interviewing for a job.  Shut it down, you can always put your pictures of your tats and your political rants back up there after you get hired.



Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on June 11, 2012 at 5:34pm

While I don't necessarily consider it a "background check" as that term does have a specific meaning, anything publicly posted on the internet is essentially available and open to being viewed, read, interpreted, etc..

I'm not necessarily in favor of poking around (facebook or any other site) to dig up dirt or drama that isn't readily available, but Sandra listed some examples of cases where that type of deeper due diligence might be justified. 

That said, I think there is far too much paranoia about sm screening. If people are too ignorant to realize what they post online stays online, they are probably too dense to be considered for a job with any level of professional responsibility.

We shouldn't have to tell people to bathe and use deodorant. If they fail to do so and don't get hired for smelling bad, that's unfortunate. 

Likewise, if someone willingly posts racist/sexist/ageist comments, inflammatory political opinions, or openly advertises their illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, I'm not inclined to feel any obligation to help them understand the error of their ways. 

~KB @TalentTalks 


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