Before you go venting on the Internet, speaking out your radical views, or posting pictures of yourself getting drunk or naked, first pause, take a deep breath and think about who might have access to this online evidence of yourself.
It’s nothing new that employers have taken into account potential employees’ online presence, including their comments and photos on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, in their hiring process. But according to a recent article in the New York Times, one company from Santa Barbara, CA has taken the social media background check to the next level.
Social Intelligence, which started a year ago, provides employers with complete files of prospective employees. The company researches many different sites on the Internet looking for both positive and negative information on applicants.
The positive information might include such things as accolades or evidence of community involvement. Say you participated in the last 5K run across town. That might show up. Or maybe you are deeply involved in the local community service scene. This would probably also appear in your profile.
The positive information will only help your cause as a job candidate. It’s the negative stuff that employers are most interested in, and what you really have to watch out for. Certain criteria that are taken into effect and reported to employers include racist remarks, reference to drug use, partying, nudity, violent characteristics or any other type of questionable behavior. Just when you thought you nailed that job interview, that week-long party in Vegas with pictures and videos to prove it might sneak up on you and shatter all your dreams.
Some may argue that the service provided by Social Intelligence is unethical and not relevant to job performance. In response to such accusations, Social Intelligence will point out that the information they look up is widely available to the entire public online.
In addition, all of the comments, photos and other potentially harmful content they report exclude those pertaining to the topics that are deemed off limits for employers during interviews. As determined by federal employment laws, these prohibited subjects of discussion include religion, race, marital status and sexual orientation.
Even so, how does all of this information determine what kind of employee the candidate will be? Maybe they like to party on the weekends, and maybe they do harbor some questionable world views. But as long as they show up for work on time and do a good job, what’s the difference, right?
Employers can argue here that a prospective employee’s off-the-clock behavior is a good indicator of their personality and therefore what kind of worker they will be. But in the case of the job applicant, this seems entirely unfair. Not every employed person out there is a public figure, so they should not all be treated as such. As if criminal background checks and credit reports weren’t enough, if you are looking for a job these days, apparently it pays to keep your nose clean all of the time.