Making allowances for job seekers on Facebook

July 23, 2012

Your inappropriate Facebook profile, posts and photos could lose you your next job, according to an in-depth study of employers from six different industries. The conclusion of a paper to be published in the International Journal of Work Innovation this month reveals that many employers are using the Facebook profiles of job candidates to filter out weaker applicants based on perception of lifestyle, attitudes and personal appearance.

Vanessa A. de la Llama, Isabel Trueba, Carola Voges, Claudia Barreto and David J. Park of the School of Journalism and , Florida International University in North Miami, suggest that employers using Facebook to assess those applying for a job with them, are creating a new digital divide, as well as revealing how our freedoms with regard to are being encroached upon increasingly by the world of work.

Hundreds of millions of people have joined the site Facebook during the last six years or so. It has become one of the most popular tools for staying in touch with friends and family and other acquaintances. However, it is notoriously open by design and its opaque mean that many people perhaps share more and more widely than they would otherwise do without realizing that prospective employers and others might see embarrassing or otherwise compromising aspects of their social and family life.

There have, of course, been numerous celebrated instances of a person's Facebook activity allegedly leading to summary dismissal because it was perceived as compromising the integrity of their employer and their company brand. How widespread this is difficult to say because such cases are relatively uncommon although given wide publicity by the scandal-loving elements of the media and blogosphere.

"While employers are using Facebook to monitor their employees, they have also begun to use it as a when considering potential candidates," says de la Llama and colleagues, "Because this is a fairly new trend, a standardized set of guidelines has yet to be established, with employers often assessing job applicants in a subjective manner."

The team interviewed representatives from the areas of information technology, healthcare & wellness, education, law enforcement, food & drink, travel, advertising and suggest that their findings shed light on a growing trend. They hope to raise the ethical questions for debate surrounding whether or not employers should be using Facebook and perhaps other to screen candidates. The question of whether employers are providing job candidates with equal opportunities if they are assessing online "image" prior to interviewing candidates must be raised. Of course, it is possible that one's Facebook activity is a perfectly acceptable window on to one's personality.

"Job seekers should be aware that their future employers are closely observing their profiles in search of a window into their personality," the team concludes. "Though this practice raises many ethical issues, it is an emerging phenomenon that is not slowing."

Explore further: Facebook warns employers not to demand passwords

More information: "At Face(book) value: uses of Facebook in hiring processes and the role of identity in social networks" in Int. J. Work Innovation, 2012, 1, 114-136

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2012
No problem here.

First, an inability to know how to set privacy settings in Facebook or the lack of commonsense to do so would seem in itself sufficient grounds to filter out prospect employees from most jobs.

Second, where it is legal, and employees demand to look at facebook profiles--any prospective employee might be advised to think twice about a job at any company that asks that.
not rated yet Jul 23, 2012
My employer only asks that I not pass myself off as an official representative, and not reveal confidential operational information. If they tried to govern my private life beyond pager duty, they would 1.) Realize that half my scribbles are academic and esoteric, and 2.) I'd politely ask them for their contact details so we can friend each other. Chances are, their profile's more embarrassing than mine!

not rated yet Jul 23, 2012
First, an inability to know how to set privacy settings in Facebook or the lack of commonsense to do so would seem in itself sufficient grounds to filter out prospect employees from most jobs.

I don't know how this would impact on someone's ability to flip burgers. Many jobs do not require tech savvy employees. And when it comes down to it: if someone wants to share their facebook profile with the world then that can also be intentional. Not using privacy settings does not neccessarily mean one isn't aware of them.

I don't think demanding access to a secured profile is legal. But employers are certainly at liberty to use google and see what turns up.
not rated yet Jul 23, 2012
Unfair labour practices.
Lawyers should have a field day with this one.
Say for instance I applied for a job and didn't get it, then I find out that 'they' had been snooping around my facebook page and discovered that I was gay.
If I suspected unfair discrimination. What would one do about it ?
Open up a can of worms.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2012
this is invasion of privacy at its worst! Its bad enough the invasion of privacy done by a large number of employers in the form of pee and hair testing (for drugs or what not), and albeit I'm not a drug user, I will NOT accept any position asking me to do this...and I have turned down a good number of jobs for this reason.
Our private lives are NOT of employers OR the governments concern. Their concern should end with "the employee did their job well"....
ANYTHING they monitor that you do outside of work hours is harassment and an invasion of privacy. This practice HAS to be shut violates the constitution and its amendments for christ sake!
not rated yet Jul 24, 2012
If I suspected unfair discrimination. What would one do about it ?

Not much. As it would boil down to your word against his word and that'd be the end of it.

Having a suspicion isn't enough in a legal system. You must have proof. That they clicked on your profile isn't proof or indication of anything.

If they sent you a letter stating that they didn't hire you because you were gay then you might have something.
But then again: what would be the point of sueing? To get the job and work in a poisoned environment?

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