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Using Facebook for Background Checks

Today, more employers use social networking sites in researching job candidates. According to Meinert’s (2011) report on HR Magazine, 45% employers being surveyed in June 2009 use social networking sites to find job candidates, as compared to 22% in 2008. In addition, 11% will start using social networking sites for employee screening. Another survey conducted in 2010 also indicates that 70% of recruiters had turned down candidates based on the information they found online.

Facebook, as one of the most important social media sites, has received more employers’ attention lately when they need to do background checks. This Fox News video reports that more companies are using Facebook for employee screening. Some companies even ask applicants for their usernames and passwords on Facebook. Do employers have the right to do that?

I never set my social networking profiles private. Everyone can check out my profiles as s/he wishes because there is nothing I want to hide --- I do not put my birthday or residential address on the Internet however. Meanwhile, I do not understand why some people, especially job seekers, want to keep an online profile private. When an employer finds a private profile, the employer may wonder: What did this person do? Is s/he trying to “hide” something? My question is: if s/he really wants to stay “private,” why did s/he want to set up an online profile in the first place? In responding to this news video, will it be an alternative if an employer asks a job candidate to change the “private” setting into a “public” setting for just a short period of time? As soon as the employer finishes reading the profile, the candidate can go back to “hide” again.

Meinert (2011) suggests that HR professionals need to be very careful when checking out job candidates on the Internet. Because many social networking sites store users’ detailed demographic information, checking a candidate’s profile online may result in discrimination claims and privacy claims. In particular, the same guidelines used for traditional reference checks should be applied to employee screening on the Internet and social networking sites. What guidelines does your company use for screening candidates on the Internet? What are your suggestions?

Meinert, D. (2011, February). Seeing behind the mask. HR Magazine,p. 31-37.


  1. I do not feel an employer should have the right to request or demand that you give up personal information, which would give them access to your personal space. I would only agree to such activity on one condition, that would be if the person in question was to gain employment in an area that would allow them access to secret or sensitive information. Candidates for these types of jobs must be thoroughly cleared prior to employment. In the employers defense, I further feel that these types of social networks should not be accessible from an employees work station unless it is job required/related. I feel you are being paid to do a job and therefore you should concentrate on that mission only and not planning your weekend events and keeping up with friends and family.

  2. I also think that an employer should not have the right to demand you to let them get access to your private profile. Facebook is not designed for background checking by employers. People use facebook to share information and get in touch with their friends. Some people would like to post their every pieces of life on facebook, but for some people like me, I use facebook only for contacting friends. Maybe there would be several pictures of me on facebook, but that wouldn't reflect my whole personal life. For the people who share everything, they might want to keep some of their information privately or only open to their friends, because everyone has secrets, so does the employer. This may also lead to a cheating situation, because people may post tons of pictures of themselves studying at the library to get a good job.

    --- Xinyao Su (NSD 314)

  3. Many people tend to judge someone by what they see on Facebook. But that doesn’t necessarily define who they are. I do agree that a background check/online data on a person is needed if they are applying for certain jobs related to holding secret information or polices, like in the video. I think People who are applying for a job with authority or power should be checked over to see how they are defined on Facebook. But Facebook should not be the determining factor; it should be something to just generalize.
    But personally I don’t think they have the right to ask for passwords especially because Facebook was created for networking with friends, families and others to post pictures for memories and staying connected. Although Facebook seems like it is being used for pretty much everything these days from advertising to even addicting games. It’s still hard to change the fact that college kids tend to put lots of party pictures or comments they regret or are "judge-able". And the fact that their job can be on the line is a little harsh. I do agree on the fact that Facebook can and will tell a lot about the person. But as easy as it is to find information about someone, it’s also easy to make stuff about a person. No one really can tell if that particular facebook was actually made from the actual person and they have no proof of who was actually responsible of posting a comment or picture. Therefore, it is a great method to “background check someone” in a sense that in today’s world Facebook is a huge part of our social life but at the same time, it’s not always accurate.
    I do feel that it’s the individual’s responsibility to determine what they want on their Facebook in regards to their future, but then again, through different peers and inside jokes, anything can be posted that they may regret later on.

  4. With internet it is highway for all sorts of issues, the way work market is it who you know which has been a practice in big brother since the beginning. People ,law enforcement love getting information on people. The ole days those people were called nosy bodies. Is is right my opinion "NO" but with the vast wealth information on the internet if you put yourself out there you open yourself up to all nosy bodies including the whackos and law enforcement who love it.
    AS far employment is addressed today is just shocking it is controlled by the elite and manipulated in society. My opinion the internet will become a tool for the rich,government soon in order to control they place controls more fees and use social sites to gather information for what ever they want to use it. The law enforcement and predators have already began.

  5. Well that's not surprising. Some employers even conduct pre employment background checks.


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