Hopefully most readers of this column are aware that their social media profiles are fair game for potential employers, who may peruse the photos and updates posted to a Facebook page to gather evidence as to the character and sobriety (often literally) of a prospective job candidate. This week brings more evidence that ill-advised social media content can hurt your chances, courtesy of a survey of executives responsible for hiring decisions in Australia.
The survey of 1,255 bosses and other hiring executives, conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Australian telecom Telestra, found that 28% of the respondents use social media to screen job candidates by doing research into their backgrounds. Within this group, respondents said they were turned off by something posted on a profile around 40% of the time. That compares to one-third who said that something posted on a profile helped decide them in favor of a particular candidate.
No surprise, one of the biggest mistakes made by job applicants in their social media profiles was criticizing their current employer:
- 44% of Australian employers who use social media for screening said they automatically disqualified jobseekers who posted critical comments about their current workplace, according to the Pure Profile-Telestra survey.
- 37% said making discriminatory remarks about your previous employer was an automatic deal-breaker.
- 31% of employers actually fired an employee who made critical remarks about them.
Again unsurprisingly, Facebook was the most popular source of information on job candidates, used by bosses:
- 41% of bosses screened applicants using Facebook.
- 31% of bosses screened applicants using LinkedIn
- 14% of bosses screened applicants using Twitter
- 7% of bosses screened applicants using both YouTube and MySpace
Interestingly, social media surveillance may continue even after someone lands a job:
- 43% of Aussie employers say they accept friend requests from their employees.
- 33% of Aussie employers say they check their employees’ social media profiles.
- 18% of Aussie employers say they monitor their employees to make sure the employees aren’t badmouthing the company online.
- 15% of Aussie employers say they monitor for productivity.
Back in the U.S., there’s no question employers are zeroing in on social media profiles as sources of information about job candidates -- sometimes with the help of professional background researchers. In June of this year I wrote about a decision by the Federal Trade Commission which effectively allows everything an individual puts on social media (which is publicly available under their privacy settings) to be archived by third parties for up to seven years, for the explicit purpose of background checks -- even if the individual has deleted the content in question from his or her own account.
The FTC determined that a company called Social Intelligence Corp. was operating within the bounds of the law when it created "cached" archives of social media profiles for review by employers, including potentially damaging photos and statements.
According to Social Intelligence Corp. CEO Max Drucker, the company focuses on screening social media profiles for the usual suspects -- racist remarks, sexually explicit content, pictures with guns, knives, or other weapons, and other illegal behavior (think bongs).
There are some limits on how employers may use archived social media content, however. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, companies are required to tell prospective employees (or, say, credit applicants) that they are going to perform background check and obtain their permission to do so. Also, companies must tell the applicant about any damaging information they find online.
COMMENTARY: In a blog post dated October 3, 2010, I profiled Social Intelligence Corporation, a "creepy startup" and "truly scary" firm that screens job applicants by what they say or do on social networks for employers. This is a quote from Max Drucker, CEO of Social Intelligence Corp:
"Once employees have been hired, their online behavior poses a possible threat to your company. Employees may criticize managers or coworkers on a social networking site, post questionable photos on a blog, or regularly update personal sites while on the clock. Therefore, it is vital that employers implement and enforce a strong social media policy. Social Intelligence offers nearly real-time surveillance of employees' online behavior (based on e-mail, SMS, and workflow) using customizable reports, summaries, and screenshots to document activity. Findings are prioritized by predefined, color-coded alerts, ensuring that employers see only the information they desire. Consistent monitoring creates awareness and strict adherence among employees, thereby reducing “cyber slacking,” fraud, and negative company publicity. Social media monitoring leads to an increase in overall productivity and a significant improvement in your bottom line."
He says employers should "implement and enforce a strong social media policy" and he calls its service "nearly real-time surveillance of employees".
The idea that your employer can play "Big Brother" on its employees in "real-time" including screening their "email, social media sites and workflow" is "truly scary." Does this mean that employers are eavesdropping on their employees at will? I call that invasion of privacy. I would like to know what they mean by "workflow." I would go as far as to call it "employer peeping-tom" This should be worrisome for you.
In a blog dated October 3, 2011, I again profiled Social Intelligence Corporation, I discussed the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1996, 2004 with amendments there to. The FCRA is a fairly complex 86 page document (see below) that provides consumers with certain rights.
Social Intelligence Corporation had been sued by privacy advocates claiming that the company was in violation of the FCRA, but the FTC dropped the case after its investigation of Social Intelligence, finding that it is in compliance with the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
I became very interested in learning exactly what information Social Intelligence Corporation provides employers "using customizable reports, summaries, and screenshots to document activity," includking which social sites they were using for screening and how they determined that a particular jobseeker "presents a threat" to a prospective employer. I sent them an email requesting this information, but I received a very lame response from one of their spokespersons that they could not provide that information unless I were a client.
Social Intelligence Corporation provides two services to employers:
"Social Intelligence℠ Hiring is an FCRA compliant background screening service that enables employers to navigate the complicated legal landscape of social media with clear, consistent, and insightful results. Using a combination of automated and manual review processes, Social Intelligence Hiring ignores information that is not legally allowable in the hiring process, such as the “protected class” characteristics defined by federal anti-discrimination law (race, religion, national origin, age, sex, familial status, sexual orientation, disability status, and other qualities that are not allowed to be used as decision points). Therefore, job candidates are protected from discrimination based on these characteristics and, in turn, employers are protected from allegations of discrimination."
Social Intelligence Employment Solutions
"Social Intelligence℠ Monitoring enables employers to implement and enforce a strong social media policy. Using a combination of automated and manual review processes, Social Intelligence Monitoring provides a powerful, cost-effective method of alerting employers to social media policy violations, including negative publicity, fraud and “cyber slacking,” and mitigating risks posed by existing employees. As with Social Intelligence Hiring, Monitoring ignores “protected class” information to insulate employers from employee discrimination claims. Whether employees are displaying or discussing illegal behavior, publicly disparaging management online, discussing sensitive company information, or updating personal websites while at work, Social Intelligence Monitoring provides employers with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect their organizations."
The word "Monitoring" sounds an awful lot like "watching" or "spying". If I say, "I am going to monitor you," I think you would automatically assume that I am watching you. Yes, that's Big Brother watching over you.
Incidentally, Social Intelligence Corporation is sponsoring a live webinar titled, "Using Social Media for Hiring Online" on Friday, December 2, 2011 between 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. (PST). Here's what's on the agenda:
"Attendees will learn what social media is and how to use it their advantage when hiring for their organization. They will learn its powerful way to augment traditional employment background screening using FCRA compliant social media searches. Lastly, we’ll show a demonstration how Social Intelligence and TalentWise makes a comprehensive social media screening simple and risk-free with searches that allow HR, recruiting and staffing professionals to gain deeper insight into job candidates’ personal and professional characteristics while screening candidates in a systematic way to ensure compliance with federal, state and local employment laws and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)."
I am pleased to report that I have registered for this webinar and encourage anyone interested in their invasion of privacy to do the same. You can register HERE. Just so you know I am in no way plugging Social Intelligence Corporation.
Courtesy of an article dated November 29, 2011 appearing in MediaPost Publications The Social Graf