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Readers Respond: Top Reasons to Research Candidates Online - Or Not

Responses: 13


The use of social and professional networking sites online to research and background check prospective employees and employees is increasing. So is the use of search engines such as Google. And, employers are making hiring decisions based on the information they find. Is this right? Or, is this practice potentially discriminatory and unethical? Do you research candidates online? If so, where, and how does the search add value to your candidate decisions? Please share your thoughts about researching candidates online.

See More Reader Responses to Questions.

Who do we think we are?

I absolutely do not go hunting for information on candidate's social networking sites. I want their resume and interview interactions to speak for them rather than ponder their potential based on off handed comments by people they know. I have, however, worked with people who do look up the individuals to see if they have sites, but if the site is private, they applaud their good sense and move on. In no way should an employer ever ask an applicant for their log ins to a social networking site. I also agree with the person who commented previously that if the resume is sent by a questionable email address name that is something you would consider. But asking someone to log in and show you their private content? Way out of line.
—Guest Jennie

Too Much Snooping

Personally I have nothing to hide, but I do think employers are starting to snoop into employees' personal lives too much. What I do when not on company time is no one's business but mine.
—Guest Carol

Limitation of LinkedIn

I agree to the author that social networking sites are advantageous for employers who use them for both networking and recruiting. Using Web 2.0 is a better and more efficient way to reach out and connect to Gen Y job candidates. However, not all social networking sites are created equal for professional recruitment. LinkedIn as successful as it is, the average user age of LinkedIn is over 35. It is hard for recruiters to find and source suitable candidates for entry level positions on LinkedIn. There are over 130 million Facebook profiles of people under the age of 35 verses only 8 million on Linkedin. The younger generation lives on Facebook and not a majority of them have a professional profile on LinkedIn. (To read more about the demographic of the younger generation on Facebook and Linkedin please go to: http://employers.identified.com/demo/turning-your-facebook-network-into-a-resume-database/) (Susan adds: more resources for recruiting on FB: http://humanresources.about.com/b/2010/09/28/use-facebook-for-recruiting.htm, recruiting online: http://humanresources.about.com/od/recruiting/a/recruit_online.htm / http://humanresources.about.com/od/careerandjobsearchhelp/a/post_jobs.htm)
—Guest dorothy@identified


I personally use FB and have mostly friends and family as my 'contacts'. I wouldn't want to be 'judged' and by no means do I feel that it is appropriate to go 'snooping' on others' personal shared sites just so you can judge them the next business day! We need to stick with what is correct and judge our employees on how they perform at work!
—Guest LBurton

Not snooping

I look but I don't spend a lot of time. If I see something that blatantly violates our company policies or code of conduct, I quietly set that application aside. Once found an applicant's (for entry level manufacturing job) fb page riddled with drug references and a picture of him rolling up a joint. Glad I didn't waste another minute of my time "weeding" him out... I'm a busy person.
—Guest urhired!

Using LinkedIn to Recruit Effectively

Great article. I think the days are here now that we cannot afford to ignore LinkedIn when recruiting. It is by far the most powerful tool out there for effective direct hire. I think readers of this article would like the following post which considers how to increase your chances of making a successful direct hire using LinkedIn. http://blog.thejobpost.co.uk/using-linkedin-to-recruit
—Guest Marc Williams

Recruiting Firm Owner

I think business networking sites like LinkedIn should be checked, whether invited or not. I don't think personal networking sites like MySpace or Facebook should be checked as part of a pre-screening process. While I believe all applicants/workers should be aware of how their profile can be found/seen online and make appropriate edits to content and security settings, I also feel employers should't venture onto the slippery slope of using social site postings as job qualifications or bona fide recommendations.
—Guest Jen

Employees' Personal Lives Are Private

I don't see this as an ethical grey area; I see it as the thin end of the wedge for the full-blown return of McCarthyism. Employees' personal lives should remain private. Period. If you want to examine someone's LinkedIn profile, their professional writings, or their contributions to github, great. It's legitimate to look for positive professional qualifications. But going out hunting for damning personal material? That's completely out of line.
—Guest Ironic That You're Asking for My Name

Personal Promotion

With respect to discrimination pitfalls, we do not generally do random searches. We have had applicants submit their profile IDs from these sites and asked that we review them. Many people recognize that these websites are available to view and anyone can access them (if they are not set to private). LinkedIn carries recommendations and other sites carry activities such as volunteering, etc. I only look if invited to do so and I am seeing this more and more as an avenue for personal promotion.
—Guest MClark

Reasons to Research Candidates Online

We investigated this activity as part of the preemployment process, but saw too many pitfalls related to discrimination.
—Guest HRAnon

Whats next, home inspections?

People respond to friends and family on these sites about many things they keep close to their hearts. Subjects can contain things like religion, political beliefs, or medical conditions. People have chosen to set the view to private because that is within their space, and their comfort zone. I think that tells me something about a potential new hire. I may check to see if they have it open and if they use it as a networking, and a business contact site. However with the needs for privacy laws these days, neither my company nor I would cross that distasteful line and require potential employees open every door to their private life. What’s next: home inspections, personal photo albums, diaries, or family interviews? This list could go on and on and although it sounds absurd to many of us some companies or individuals may think they are within their rights. I hope that this does not become the norm.

an email address can say a lot

I don't search, but I do look at the email address since most applicants apply by email. If they don't have the sense to use an email address that shows some sort of professionalism, like their name or even something generic like my name here (mmm718), then I delete the email. For example, I had emails from "sexygirl...@...."
—Guest mmm718

Reasons to Research Candidates

Moral qualifications are important in our positions so I check all primary social network sites. However, I do not ask for passwords. If the site is private, I just note the candidate had the good sense to make it private.
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