It seems like one piece of advice students and job-seekers often get these days is that nothing you post on-line is private, so get rid of those inappropriate Facebook posts and pictures before applying for a job. The Star Tribune reports that "a recent national study found that employers...rejected job candidates for inappropriate photos, content relating to drinking or drugs and misrepresentation of skills" found via the Internet. The article goes on to note though that "Unwittingly, these businesses could be violating -- or close to violating -- anti-discrimination laws that have protected workers for decades."
It seems logical that before hiring a candidate an employer would check references and also check the Internet for anything that could be embarrassing to the company relating to an employee. And a growing number of companies are going that route.
In a survey of hiring managers conducted earlier this year for CareerBuilder.com, 45 percent reported using social media in their background checks of prospective employees, up from 22 percent a year ago. Of those 2,600 managers, 35 percent found something that caused them to not hire the candidate.
The touchy area comes when employers find personal information that could affect their hiring decision that falls into a protected class. "Employers must be cautious that the information they obtain doesn't result in discrimination by race, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation."
Is it unethical to look at someone's personal information in making a hiring decision? I don't think so, though as the article notes, it could be risky. There are some solutions presented as well, notably being up front about what kind of background check will be done. In the meantime I would recommend that we all need to learn just how much information to share, and with whom. Now excuse me while I tweet this and post it on my wall.
Also check out the Star Tribune video on this topic and some social media advice for employers.